UPDATE: DOT drops plan to alter toll
Late Wednesday afternoon, Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce President Ric Base sent out an e-mail proclaiming victory over the Lee County Department of Transportation's plan to eliminate the LeeWay toll discount program and increase the per-crossing fee for causeway users from $2 to $3.
And by early evening, that report was formally confirmed by Sanibel Mayor Mick Denham and Paul Wingard, deputy director of the DOT.
"Mr. Paul Wingard confirmed today that it is the intent of the Lee County DOT staff to drop the proposed toll modifications for the Sanibel Causeway," Base's e-mail, sent out at 3:22 p.m., said. "This is great news and our thanks to the Government Affairs Committee of the Chamber, the Chamber members, citizens of Sanibel and Captiva and the City Council and staff of Sanibel."
Reached at his Sanibel home a short time later, Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes seemed happy to hear the as-yet-unconfirmed news.
"I'm not at all surprised because I've been formally opposed to it all along," said Janes. "I think that (the DOT) were going to have a difficult time trying to get it through, especially in this economy when everybody's trying to cut expenses. This was not the right time to be doing that."
Earlier in the day, Wingard sent an e-mail to Denham, requesting the mayor call him to discuss "modifications" to the proposed toll plan.
"We are going to change the schedule and plan I gave you yesterday," Wingard wrote. "We are not going to go to M&P (Management and Planning) on Aug. 3. Instead we are going to go to the Board on Aug. 4 and propose that we drop the recommendation to change the toll structure. The Blue Sheet should be out this Friday. We have not yet alerted our Commissioners."
Word regarding the DOT's change of heart spread quickly across the islands on Wednesday afternoon.
"I think we won the battle," said Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane.