If you are a local, you probably occasionally travel the Mid-Bay Bridge. If you work in Destin, Miramar Beach or Santa Rosa Beach and live in Niceville or Crestview, you use the Mid-Bay Bridge regularly. If you are an employer in the Destin area, you’ve probably experienced difficulties hiring or keeping employees because of the tolls they would pay to come to work. The current cash rate to go through the Mid-Bay Bridge toll is $4.00 each way. For travelers with a Florida SunPass account, the rate is $3.00 each way. For SunPass users who go through the toll booth 41 times or more per month, the rate is $2.00, credited back to your account. The Spence Parkway “toll by plate” and electronic portion of the roadway has a separate toll schedule. It’s $2.00 each way, or with a SunPass account the toll is $1.50. Frequent users of 41 trips or more per month pay $1.00 each commute. Spence Parkway crossings are not counted as frequent trips toward the main toll booth section of the Mid-Bay Bridge nor vice-versa, so you would have to take 41 trips on each section to get the discounted rate for that particular section. SunPass accounts can have multiple users, so a family’s bridge travels can add up toward the 41 trip monthly discount issued as an account rebate.
The problem is- is the toll fair and affordable for local residents? Is it fair for employers and employees? Employees would be paying, at best, $82 per month for 41 trips. For a part-time employee who doesn’t make 41 trips, they would pay more. If employers are sick or on vacation one month, they may miss their 41 trip count. Employers competing for workers in Destin or Miramar Beach have to pay higher wages than offered for similar jobs in Niceville or Crestview if their employees need to drive the Mid-Bay Bridge. What about residents of Niceville and Crestview who like to shop, dine and go to the beach in Destin? The tolls decrease business opportunities south of the Mid-Bay Bridge for business owners because fewer people want to pay to cross over. Shopping one town away may be a financial burden on some residents.
There has been much discussion lately on ways to reduce tolls for locals. Check the Mid-Bay Bridge website and also the calendar to attend a public meeting in Niceville or Destin, Florida. Let me know what you think.
UPDATE: The Mid-Bay Bridge Authority voted on November 17 to reduce the Mid-Bay Bridge trips required for a discount to 32, effective January 1, 2017. Read the story.