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Taking A Toll: Farewell To Human Collectors At Card Sound Bridge

Charles Trainor Jr.
Miami Herald
Toll collector John Struckman takes the $1 toll from travelers in the late day at the toll plaza on Card Sound Road. The toll plaza, an alternative route to the Florida Keys, is one of the last remaining manned toll facilities in South Florida.

Update: Today's Labor Day, so we're taking some time to look at a vanishing job. We first broadcast this story two years ago when plans for the  24/7 Card Sound Road tollbooth (connecting Miami-Dade and the Keys) to go automated were a couple years away.

 That last day arrived on Thursday (Aug. 31). 

Listen to original story below. Toll taker John Struckman retired in July and moved to Ocala. Bill Nemec told us, "I'm healthy and in good shape and all that. ... I really liked it. This was the kind of job you could work for the rest of your life." For now, Nemec plans to do a lot of fishing. 

"The Card Sound tollbooth survived robberies, crashes and even hurricanes -- but it couldn't survive time," writes the Miami Herald's Elizabeth Koh in her account of the toll takers' last day at the booth, which you can read here.

Ten miles off South Dixie Highway on Card Sound Road, tourists in shiny red convertibles pass commuters in silver and black pickup trucks.

Some are heading to the biker bar Alabama Jack’s — where they serve deep fried conch fritters and cocktails in plastic cups. Other are making their way to the Ocean Reef Club, a beachfront community where golf carts glide past the pastel homes and pristine lawns.

Just before Card Sound’s last bend stands a bright blue canopy, a sentry stretching across the two-lane road: “Welcome to Monroe County and the fabulous Florida Keys.’’ Underneath is a blue tollbooth where two people work side by side, sharing the nine square-foot space.

“Whoa there!” says Bill Nemec, to a driver who slammed on his brakes minutes before the toll gate, oblivious to the stop sign and green-and-white posting that states: “Cars $1.00 EACH WAY.’’

“SunPass has become so dominant people think that everywhere takes SunPass,” said Nemec, who stacks quarters in between toll collecting. He was on the side heading to Key Largo; 72-year-old John Struckman, with a full head of gray hair, manned the Miami route.

Click here to read the rest of the story over at the Miami Herald

Here's Laura Jennings Oudin performing her song about the Card Sound Road toll both, "Toll Booth Romance," on WLRN's Folk & Acoustic Music.  She jokes that the toll booth guys all think the song's about them. 

WLRN's Nancy Klingener contributed to the update of this story.