■ BY KATHY BANSON-VERRICO AND MARCY SHORTUSE
The GIBA Quarterly Board Meeting held on Wednesday, April 18 was quick and to the point, as there was little new business to be conducted and things at the bridge are running smoothly.
The meeting began with a report from Executive Director Kathy Banson-Verrico regarding traffic and revenue figures for October 17 through March 18. Traffic counts were up one percent compared to last year, with a corresponding two-percent revenue decrease. The record-breaking “Good Friday” traffic was also discussed, as it has been the busiest recorded Causeway day in history, with a traffic count of approximately 5,000 vehicles. Traffic and revenue for the first half of April are down slightly.
Banson-Verrico also discussed a new speed-calming device in front of the GIBA truck scale, which is needed due to the fact that drivers are pulling onto the scale too quickly and damaging it.
Bridge openings were down by 36 percent in February (chalked up to bad weather) and up in March by six percent.
Banson-Verrico also brought to the Board’s attention the fact that GIBA employees were doing the storm restoration work at the south end of the Causeway, as they had no responses when they put the job out for bid. The project was designed to restore the flooded areas of the southern roadway and to help prevent standing water in the roadway when the summer rains begin again.
The first phase included the jet spraying of all drainage structures. The second phase was the removal of debris and dead trees in the GIBA right of way. The current and final phase is the regrading and sodding.
The Board also talked about their newest planning stages for the toll collection system replacement. The new system will include camera upgrades; the addition of an Automatic License Plate Recognition camera on the Swing Bridge to record all license plates, upgraded RFID stickers and cards; and a new GIBA web portal, which will be available for customers to monitor their accounts online (including setting up new accounts, checking usage history, printing statements, and making payments on account).
The new toll plan also provides for the outside toll lane to be designated as an unattended lane for GIBA pass holders only.
Banson-Verrico reminded everyone that the GIBA toll pass options will remain the same, and that the replacement of the toll system is not a toll rate change. GIBA customer service is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your bridge pass account. Just call (941) 697-2271.
The fiscal year 2018 GIBA quarterly financial statements were reviewed and discussed as well. GIBA continues to build cash reserves to fund capital projects and prepay long-term debt. According to Board member Drew Tucker, who gave the presentation, GIBA is in a solid financial position.
The Board of Supervisors also discussed changes to the pay scale for GIBA employees and voted to make wage structure modifications to ensure compliance with local hourly pay range standards.
At the end of the meeting, Banson-Verrico told the Board about a discussion she had with a resident concerning current bicycle rules of the road on the GIBA Causeway. The resident requested that additional signage be put along the roadway indicating that the road was used for bicycle traffic (as there is no bike lane there and very little shoulder to ride on), but Banson-Verrico said that in order to meet Department of Transportation regulations for that type of signage, they would have to stencil the sign on the roadway every 250 feet from Placida Road to the end of the Causeway, going both ways. The Board also discussed the possibility of “Share the Road” signs, or at least a sign indicating that the shoulder was going to end at the end of the Causeway. The Board said they would consider their options and address that situation at a later date.
Also discussed was a concern regarding the lack of adherence to the posted speed limits, focusing on congested areas along the Causeway. GIBA will continue to encourage Charlotte County to provide traffic enforcement along the entire Causeway.