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Monroe County Considers Automating Card Sound Toll Booth

Charles Trainor Jr.
Miami Herald Staff
The toll plaza on Card Sound Road is one of the last remaining nonautomated road toll facilities in South Florida.

Since the Card Sound Road tollbooth opened in 1969, the toll has remained the same: 50 cents an axle, cash only.

Credit Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald Staff
Miami Herald Staff
Toll worker John Struckman takes the $1 toll from Patrick Roberts. Monroe County employs four full-time and five part-time toll workers. Their jobs would be eliminated if the toll booth is automated.

But change may be coming to the booth at the county line between Monroe and Miami-Dade. Monroe County is considering automating the booth. Tolls would be collected by Sunpass and toll-by-plate, as they are increasingly throughout the state.

The public has until Friday (Dec. 18) to weigh in on the proposal through an online survey at cardsoundsurvey.com.

Automating the booth could increase safety and convenience and would reduce noise and fuel consumption, according to a county news release.

Credit Google Maps
Google Maps
Card Sound Road is one of two routes connecting Key Largo with the mainland. It runs between Florida City and North Key Largo.

  The county collected $1,075,111 in tolls at the booth during the last fiscal year, said Judith Clarke, Monroe's director of engineering services. That money goes toward the operation, maintenance and improvement of Card Sound Road, which includes four small bridges and the high-arching Card Sound Bridge.

Credit Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald Staff
Miami Herald Staff
Revenues from the toll booth go to maintain Card Sound Road and the high-arching Card Sound Bridge. Monroe County collected about $1 million in tolls during the last fiscal year.

Four full-time and five part-time toll collectors work at the booth. Card Sound Road is one of two routes in or out of the Florida Keys. It connects Florida City and North Key Largo and is a slightly longer and slower alternative to the 18 Mile Stretch of U.S. 1.

We asked members of the Public Insight Network for their opinions about whether the Card Sound Road tollbooth should be automated. These are some of the responses we got:

"Yes. Minimal impact on employment. Allow for national Sunpass to use the bridge. Decrease back-up during peak usage. Increase revenue by pay-by-plate." -Ted Weinreich, Miami Beach
"It's so freakin GORGEOUS and there are places to pull over and enjoy the mangroves and fish. Also, it's a country road like the way country roads used to be. HELL NO! [on automation]. Ever talk to any of those toll booth employees? They love that job and that place. Not only that, but most of them are retirees and perform a valuable service." - Eric Moss, Miami
"I don't see why the Card Sound Road shouldn't be automated. Most folks already have a SunPass and it will make lines at the toll booth into a memory." - Robert Black, South Miami
"I don't use Card Sound Road very often, but I've never had a traffic back-up to deal with there, and I like that a vestige of the distant past survives and is active. There's so little of that in South Florida. Going down thataway from Miama, it's something like a checkpoint at the entry to another dimension, such as the Twilight Zone. I don't want us to lose that." - Arnold Markowitz, Miami Shores
"It is just the perfect 'welcome back home' from a trip off the rock. Meander back home, stop at Alabama Jack's for the best conch fritters in the Keys and avoid the Stretch raceway. The taxpayer in me says, 'Yep, automate it.' The cynic in me says, 'Why automate it when you'll never see taxes reduced by the savings,' so the romantic in me says, 'Leave it the way it is ... Let some of Old Florida live.' Don't automate it." - Buzz Wagner, Key West
"Automate it. The toll collectors are slow, talk way too much and, in my opinion, they really should not charge at all. The condition of the road surface is not good, trash on the sides is unsightly." - Jim Angleton, Bay Harbor Islands

Be part of the conversation by joining the WLRN/Miami Herald Public Insight Network.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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