Does return of tolls mean double tax?

FDOT says tolls to be installed on I-295 by 2017

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With the return of tolls in Jacksonville comes talk of double tax.

When residents voted to get rid of them 23 years ago, they voted in a new tax. But former Mayor Tommy Hazouri says that tax should go if tolls return.

Hazouri pushed to get rid of toll roads in the late 1980s, and he stands alongside Mayor Alvin Brown, who's said he's against toll roads.

The Florida Department of Transportation says plans are already in place to install the roads sometime in the next four or five years.

FDOT is widening three sections of Interstate 295, one section on the Southside, one on the Northside and one in Mandarin.

The new lanes would be for anyone who wants to pay to move more quickly down the interstate.

The talk of managed lanes or tolls in Jacksonville began a year ago with FDOT after what officials called a success of managed lanes in South Florida, where they say congestions have cleared and speeds have picked up.

Hazouri said when Jacksonville voters got rid of tolls, they voted for a new 1/2-cent sales tax. That will stay if tolls return.

"They want to have the taxes and the tolls, and that is not right," Hazouri said. "So I would suggest, why don't they seek a creative way to repeal that tax so the public is no longer paying that tax?"

City councilman Bill Bishop said he thinks the idea of these lanes is good because drivers don't have to use them if they don't want to pay.

He said there is no way now to get road improvements without having to pay extra for it. Bishop said the issue of the sales tax is complicated.

"You got to remember what that was for," he said. "There were a set number of existing toll facilities that generated a certain amount of revenue. That is what the 1/2-cent sales tax went to replace. We are talking new stuff. They don't equate. ... Yes, we are still paying it, and that's a whole different conversation."

Hazouri said it's all the same conversation and it's one that needs to take place now.

"We paid for everything we have here through tolls," Hazouri said. "Shame on them for making us continue with the tolls, continue with the tax and still not be able to keep our word to the public."

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