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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 2 years ago

Horizon West nonprofit advocates for suspension of tolls

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Horizon West Neighbors Helping Neighbors is circulating a petition to make toll roads free during the COVID-19 pandemic.
by: Tim Freed Former Managing Editor

A Horizon West-based nonprofit hopes to ease the burden on families struggling financially during the COVID-19 crisis.

Horizon West Neighbors Helping Neighbors has launched a petition to have Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspend tolls along highways until the end of the pandemic. The petition has 1,909 signatures as of Sunday, March 29.

Horizon West Neighbors Helping Neighbors CEO Linda Sibley said she believes it is wrong for families to have to pay tolls during the coronavirus crisis.

“Those were the people I wanted to do this for — the ones that got furloughed, the independent contractors that only are paid when they’re working,” she said. “And then I was thinking about the people that needed to go travel in order to get groceries to help their families that needed to self-quarantine, that had to quarantine because they had a compromised immune system. We’ve got these incredible toll roads — open them up.” 

The nonprofit in Horizon West was founded by Sibley and other residents as “a safety advocacy group established to provide a forum for discussions regarding Horizon West safety concerns.”

That mission has focused mainly on advocating for better lighting along local roads and strengthening distracted driver laws in Florida. There’s also been a push to apply for Orange County grants that could help residents injured during road-related incidents. 

A letter regarding the suspension of tolls and the petition has been sent to numerous elected officials, including DeSantis, Sibley said.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people in Florida (who) have no income, yet they are trying to take care of their parents, their grandparents, their friends,” Sibley said. “They need to go donate blood, they’re going to need to get over to the convention center in order to get tested. … For God’s sake, open up these toll roads so that the people who need to be on the roads can get from point A to B in 15 minutes as opposed to having to (use) the back roads.”

Earlier this month, the Central Florida Expressway Authority announced it will be temporarily suspending cash collection for tolls and shifting to license plate tolling, known as Pay by Plate, starting March 19. The decision was made in an effort to reduce the potential exposure of both drivers and employees to the COVID-19 virus.

Cash-paying drivers who normally pay at the toll booth will continue to pay the same rate and receive a Pay by Plate billing statement in the mail for tolls incurred.

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Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. 

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