Causeway Traffic Remains Down; Impacts City’s Budget

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Traffic across the Sanibel Causeway remains down since March, when the city declared a state of local emergency due to the virus pandemic. SC file photo by Chuck Larsen

The number of vehicles crossing the Sanibel Causeway has decreased each month since March due to the COVID-19 crisis. A report supplied to the City of Sanibel by Lee County, which owns and operates the bridge, shows traffic from January to July is down by 16 percent compared to the same period last year.

Traffic in January and February was up by 4.24 percent and 3.45 percent respectively compared the same months last year. The vehicle count fell by 25.36 percent in March and continued to tumble by nearly 61 percent in April versus 2019. And the counts for May, June and July were lower than the previous year, but began to steadily increase.

The reduction in traffic means a loss of revenue for Sanibel, which receives 21 percent of the net toll receipts from the county. The city’s draft budget for the next fiscal year shows an estimated loss of $270,000 to the transportation fund. It’s one of two important revenue streams that were immediately affected by the pandemic.

Council’s decision to close public beach parking lots from March 18 to June 1, then again from July 3-6, abruptly cut-off revenue from the beach parking fund which had an impact on the city’s general fund. However, the draft budget recognizes there are several revenue sources that will “certainly be impacted over the next fiscal year and beyond.”

The draft budget will be presented at a first hearing at 5 p.m. Monday in MacKenzie Hall at City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd. A regular city council meeting will precede it at 9 a.m.

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