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A Little Hurricane Greediness: Hammock Dunes Bridge Still Charging Tolls Until Tonight

| September 6, 2017

The Hammock Dunes Bridge was completed in 1988. It's been paid off for 10 years, but still collects $1.6 million in tolls annually. (© FlaglerLive)

The Hammock Dunes Bridge was completed in 1988. It’s been paid off for 10 years, but still collects $1.6 million in tolls annually. (© FlaglerLive)

Gov. Rick Scott suspended all tolls on Florida roads and bridges as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Hammock Dunes Bridge, however, did not suspend its $2 toll–and does not plan to do so until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

By suspending all tolls, Floridians and visitors will more easily be able to prepare for any potential storm impacts, access important hurricane supplies, and quickly and safely evacuate when necessary, the governor’s office said Tuesday.

Sandy Ausbrooks, the bridge’s assistant manager, said the governor’s order applied to Florida Department of Transportation bridges and roads. The Hammock Dunes Bridge is a “private” bridge, he said, not entirely accurately: Hammock Dunes is a Community Development District, an independent but nevertheless public government with its own elected board, whose proceedings and documents must follow the state’s Sunshine law.

The government was originally set up by the ITT Community Development Corporation that built Hammock Dunes. It runs the bridge, along with a water and sewer utility.

ITT paid for the bridge with a $16.3 million bond levy it financed through tolls for drivers to use the bridge, whether they live in Hammock Dunes or not. The bridge was built in 1988. The bonds were paid off about a decade ago.

The bridge has since been, essentially, a cash cow for the district: its 2018 budget projects bridge-toll revenue of $1.62 million, up from a projected revenue of $1.55 million for the year ending this month, with total expenses of $789,000–and much of that expense ($327,000) is to pay the salaries of people employed to run the bridge, including toll collectors. Just $180,000 is budgeted for capital improvements, all of it for a new toll-collection system.

About 15 employees, most of them part time, are employed in toll collection, including supervisors.

Earlier this decade Hammock Dunes and county government agreed on a $1.8 million contribution from Hammock Dunes to various county project, drawn from surplus bridge funds. NO such contribution is budgeted this year, though surplus fund from the bridge does end up in the Dunes’ general fund. Overall, the Dunes district has $20 million in non-capital assets, $17 million of it unrestricted: the district is not in the poorhouse.

Dick Ryan, the district manager, did not respond to two calls placed at his office today (he was out to lunch the first time, then in a meeting with his employees after lunch, an office employee said.)

“We will be suspend tolls tonight at six for the duration of the storm,” Ausbrooks said, noting that “there’s no charge to evacuate,” meaning no one is being charged to go west on the bridge. (The bridge ended its westbound tolls several years ago.) But when asked why the suspension hadn’t taken place in line with state roads, he said only that the governor’s order did not apply to Hammock Dunes, and referred further questions to Ryan.

Most of the district’s board members could not be reached.

Richard DeMatteis, one of the board members, spoke by phone from out of town, but was not aware of the toll situation. “I know we’ve stopped the tolls in the past and opened the gates in prior hurricanes and so on, I’m not so sure what the concern is right now at this point in the storm’s process,” he said. “I really haven’t been involved in any of the discussions.” He added: “Normally that’s the district manager’s responsibility.”

In his statement about lifting tolls on roads and b ridges, Scott said: “Ensuring the safety of Florida families and visitors is our top priority and suspending tolls statewide will help people quickly evacuate and make it easier for all Floridians to access important hurricane supplies to ensure they are fully prepared.”

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25 Responses for “A Little Hurricane Greediness: Hammock Dunes Bridge Still Charging Tolls Until Tonight”

  1. Roy says:

    Well, it you are evacuating the bridge is always free going west.

  2. for real says:

    Another fine example of Palm Coast GREED! Somebody call pam bondi.

  3. Facts says:

    Are they lowering the lakes ahead of the storm?

  4. RTC says:

    What would be the point of not charging the toll for eastbound traffic, especially four days before the storm could get to Flagler County. Nobody is evacuating by going east towards the coast.

  5. Veteran says:

    Those east of bridge are most in need of hurricane supplies. So every trip to Home Depot or Lowes costs. What a bunch of pricks!

  6. Jean says:

    Wonder if we could call the gouging hotline on the hammock dunes bridge for that?

  7. Good for the goose says:

    We should charge anyone from the Hammock a $10.00 storm fee for coming over and getting their supplies at Home Depot.That toll should have been done away with 10 years ago-Greedy, self centered aholes. Let hope it destroys their beach front & golf courses again!

  8. Anonymous says:

    The governor and fdot have ordered all tolls be waived…..where’s Pam Bondi, she has to know about this. This is another fine example of why the people in the Hammock are known to be so selfish and greedy. They got their asses kicked last year and will probably get what’s coming to them again in the matter of days. That will take care of their scenic highway….Reep what you sow.

  9. Hammock Bear says:

    Many who live in the Hammock are on fixed incomes. That does not appear to matter during a time of hurricane prep needs. All that money helps keep the flowers looking pretty. Imagine that. Greed is very obvious. Heck, they are so PC, they stopped decorating the toll booths at Christmas. That is just plain, rude.

  10. ASF says:

    People can contact the state’s attorney office to report price gougers–including this example. If the owners of the bridge are not complying with the law, they should be reported.

  11. Concerned Citizen says:

    So I guess when the Governor declares a state of emergency it is selective? I suppose if you operate a private entity like Hammock Dunes you can pick what rules to follow.

    I’ll bet that if they suffer any storm damage they will be quick to ask for help from the state. At that point the state needs to know they did not abide by the Governors wish to not collect tolls and help people get needed supplies.

    You all are correct that Pam Bondi needs to be contacted and report them for not complying and capitalizing during a State of Emergency.

  12. Anonymous says:

    DOT sunpass was contacted and notified of this HammockDunes toll bridge still charging fees to the residents…
    Imwas informed by a female DOT officer this was against the law by Gov Rick Scott.and they asked me for the number to the bridge and they were getting a call to stop these charges at once.
    That was not right Hammock Dunes! Tolls will be suspended until further notice1-888-865-5352 to report any gouging to Pam Bondi

  13. Jitters says:

    Greedy bastards only rich people own
    That bridge. I work for a local delivery
    Co. We cross the bridge at least 30
    Times a weak . something like a storm
    There afraid to miss out of a dime.

  14. Luke Luciano says:

    DOT sunpass was notified today (Pam Bondi) of this Hammock Dunes still collecting the toll
    It was suppose to be suspended immediatly as per the DOT supervisor..when i called they were going to be notified at omce to cease the toluntil further notifications exceptions.
    I called myself to report ot DOT office…

  15. BigTop says:

    Goose, are you from New York or New Jersey?

  16. Tollbridgesucks says:

    Wheres the logic behind that? Do you think we choose have a toll to get over. No it’s bullshit I have to pay $2 to get to my house.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I think the toll use to be $.025 each way when the bridge first opened. This must be the only toll bridge on the east coast of Florida! Just a big time ripoff to Flagler County residents, tourist and businesses!

  18. john dolan says:

    This bridge is a cash cow that is not practical anymore. The citizens should demand access without having to pay. Stop the insanity. How about a toll booth at Rt. 1?

  19. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    Since the “private bridge” which was paid off by the public a decade ago through tolls and the governing board is in partners with the county therefore I assume is in time of declared emergency must come under legitimate government control, greedily ignored the “STATE OF EMERGENCY ” declaration of the federal government, the State of Florida and the County of Flagler and continued to charge tolls and didn’t cease until 6 pm Wednesday.

    Is this a new form of “GOUGING ” which is illegal?

    Vital traffic arteries should never be under the control of private entities. Didn’t the railroad wars of the 1800’s teach us anything?

  20. ASF says:

    If they are that greedy (which, it appears, they are) they should be threatened with a fine that is large enough to off-set what they think they will make by simply ignoring the order. I personally think that the private operators of this bridge should be responsible for all the maintenance and repairs it requires. Tight now they aren’t. Public tax payer funds pay for all that. How is THAT fair?

  21. RayD says:

    I always go north or south to avoid it. I think it’s the only took bridge over the intracoastal on the east coast of the state except for Card Sound and a causeway in Miami and both of those are much longer spans. Yes, it is a ripoff.

  22. Dave says:

    Greedy price gouges taking advantage of people in crisis

  23. Old Hammock says:

    With any luck, Mother Nature and Irma will blow that bridge over and the Hammock will get back to some normalcy. Take that for greed and karma, you pricks.

  24. RTC says:

    Not sure why there are so many nasty comments about the residents of the Hammock becasue of the bridge toll. Do you all realize that we have nothing to do with it. The toll was set years ago to pay for the construction of the bridge. Before that bridge was built there was no easy access to the Beach for residents of Palm Coast.
    Now the toll pays for maintenance of the bridge and for the future need of a second bridge as more and more people move into the Hammock. The residents of the Hammock all payr the toll, and certainly pay for it more often than the residents of Palm Coast. We pay the toll almost daily as we go to Palm Coast for visits to Doctors, Dentists, Lowes, Home Depot, etc. etc. So, if there was no toll the Hammock residents would save far more dollars than the visitors to the Hammock.

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