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Tolls Collected No Longer a Drop in the Bucket after Booth Hardening

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FL - For several weeks after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and then again after Hurricane Dennis in 2005, Pensacola Beach residents and visitors got a free ride – through the Bob Sikes Toll Facility, that is. The tile roof of the toll booth had been severely damaged during Hurricane Ivan. Eventually, the tolls began to be collected again; however, the car toll counters were still inoperable.

“We [collected] the tolls by hand,” recalls toll collector Anna Jackson. “We had to count the axles on the vehicles. Fifty cents an axle.” The money was collected in buckets and turned in at the end of the shift. (Average daily revenue from tolls is estimated to be between $8,000 and $10,000.)

After the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Preliminary Damage Assessments were completed and city officials met with FEMA mitigation staff Walter Cain and FEMA architect Arnold Gentileeza, the toll facility was found eligible for “406 Mitigation,” which would cover a percentage of the eligible costs of repairs. Hazard Mitigation, Section 406, is a funding source for cost-effective measures that would reduce or eliminate the threat of future damage to a facility damaged during the disaster.

The damaged tile roof was upgraded from a rating of 140 mph to being able to withstand winds of 160 mph. A new steelcoated aluminum standing seam metal roof was installed.

Architect Bill Lawing and Marcus Faulkner, Special Projects Coordinator for Escambia County’s Facilities Management, oversaw the work performed on the facility.

“We removed the steel toll booths and replaced them with insulated concrete booths," Lawing said. He explained that the electrical panels were placed above the flood line (they had previously been inside the booths themselves) and new toll counters were secured in a second floor attic above the fourth toll lane.

A generator that helped provide energy for the facility was elevated onto a portable trailer. Plans were made to equip other public buildings, such as the local hospital, with a Quick Disconnect switch so that the generator could be easily moved to a nearby government building in case of power failure when it wasn’t being utilized at the toll booth.

Between FEMA and Escambia County, the estimated cost for hardening the toll booth was $281,488.50.

Last updated June 3, 2020