Florida, of course, has a long history of ambitious and often corrupt developers creating schemes to ruin the state going back to the early 1900s, but today the effort is on steroids. And at the top of the Governor's list is the development of transportation corridors designed to turn the beauty into a jungle of concrete, steel and overpopulation. The roadway network certainly has some problems, but most can be solved by re-engineering of existing major arteries and better alignment of vehicle traffic flow. Enforcement of traffic laws wouldn't hurt either. But remember, developers are huge campaign contributors to political campaigns and it is likely the Governor is just trying to deliver on his promises made earlier. Nowhere is the Field of Dreams Concept ("If we build it, they will come") more apparent than in today's Florida.
A significant group of citizens is rising up in opposition, attending all hearings, speaking out and spreading the word about what is transpiring and the more the word spreads, the more the interest grows in challenging highway plans. Where it will end up nobody knows for sure, but it has generated much independent research by citizens to get to the truth of what Florida really needs, what the localities really need and determining the least obtrusive way to do what is right, not what is often pie-in-the-sky dream. And in searching for information and answers, some interesting things have surfaced. A major component is the role of technology and what it can do. But don't forget, unintended consequences follow from most of what we do and the road issue is no exception.
A major desire of the Governor in his planning is to maximize the use of toll roads. He assumes that the tolls won't be seen as a tax by citizens and that once they get used to them the public clamor will subside. It is also a way for him to act unilaterally and legally "hide" expensive projects since they aren't considered part of the general budget and are not based on taxes, but "fees". Watch out when government talks about lower taxes in return for fees for fees are much easier to raise and more difficult to pin down.
Yesterday during research, an interesting unintended consequence of the imposition of tolls was found in a story about toll roads in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state where I was born and raised. It seems that on one major toll roadway, the Elizabeth River Tunnel between Norfolk and Portsmouth, an EZ-Pass transponder for a regular user went "on the fritz" and she was not charged for some fifty dollars in tolls. Now a commuter has trouble tracking accuracy since the charge is automatic as the vehicle goes through the measurement point, but when she received the bill for tolls from the contract administrative entity, in this case an Australian firm, it was in the amount of thirty-one thousand dollars. The reason: she was fined for missing the aforementioned unpaid tolls even though it wasn't her fault, it was due to transponder error.
The vendor wouldn't relent and the poor woman had to take them to court where the judge wisely sided with her. But that didn't end it as she called her local state representative and a bill was prepared to correct this issue once and for all. In early March of this year the State House of Delegates (lower house of the legislature) passed a bill by a whopping vote of 85-12. As best I can figure, it is now before the State Senate and, if passed and put into law, it would eliminate the Governor's ability to unilaterally approve toll roads. It also puts a cap on fines for non-payment. Of course, it is not known if they bill will pass, particularly since it must go through Governor McAuliffe for signature, and he is certainly not a fan of limited government.
Thinking about what transpired, it explained a few situations personally faced regarding toll road billing mistakes here in the Sunshine State. Now I know why I frequently have received toll charges from South Florida expressway units in the last two years even though I haven't driven my car in the Miami-Dade area in over ten years. I guess they just figure they'll charge someone and see if they'll pay. And the only way I could get out of the tolls without it impacting my driving privilege was by going to the DMV and getting them to "call off the dogs". the DMV advised them that my license plate number was not on the citation. Amazing what happens sometimes in the name of technology.
Now this is just one small issue with toll roads and general superhighways that are a bother; there are much bigger issues in North Florida. But perhaps this little situation just points out once again how government, hellbent and determined to do what they want, never look at the whole situation before they make major changes for which they have no idea of what will ultimately happen. And this is just once small little ice cube off of the tip of the iceberg. In coming weeks I will present more.
Now enough of the problems for a Saturday morning. Have a wonderful weekend. After all, the government is closed for a few days. God bless you all.