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Pour in some pennies

The extra penny per gallon on gas in Pinellas starting in 2007 will pay for traffic technology.

By WILL VAN SANT
Published March 14, 2006


Pinellas County drivers will pay an extra penny on every gallon of gas they purchase begining Jan. 1, 2007.

The County Commission voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the increase, which is expected to generate $3.9-million annually. The money will be supplemented by state and federal grants and used to install the latest in traffic control technology on the county's major roads.

Officials say the system of "smart" traffic signals will ease congestion by responding to road conditions in real time. Electronic message signs that notify drivers about delays and direct them along unclogged routes are also part of the package.

The work will be done in three phases, the first to be completed in 2009. That phase would install the technology on McMullen Booth Road, U.S. 19, Belcher Road and State Road 60, as well as connecting roads.

Based on data compiled by AAA, the county estimates the tax hike will cost the typical Pinellas driver $6.50 a year. The extra cost, however, will be offset by reductions in fuel consumption, officials say.

They also see better air quality and reduced delays as additional benefits.

With the increase, Pinellas drivers will pay a total of 45.7 cents in tax on a gallon of gas. That figure represents money sent to federal government, the state and the county and is the same as drivers pay in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

The tax is set to expire Dec. 31, 2026.