6:08 p.m. EDT, August 21, 2014
Dylan D. Smith was northbound on SR 417 when he drove his Ford Mustang into a divider at the Lee Vista Boulevard toll plaza.
Smith, 22, died at the scene of the crash, which prompted troopers to close the cash lanes at the toll booth. Troopers said the crash may have been a suicide.
“As part of this ongoing investigation, we have obtained further information of a possible suicide and will continue investigating,” Trooper Wanda Diaz stated.
The E-Pass lanes and two lanes where drivers can get receipts or change from toll booth attendants were not damaged by the crash and reopened Thursday as soon as emergency response teams cleared them.
The accident damaged the two exact-change lanes, where drivers throw coins into baskets at unmanned booths. Those lanes were expected to remain closed into Friday, but expressway engineers expected they could repair and reopen them by late Friday or Saturday at the latest, said expressway authority spokesman Jeff Marshall.
Accidents periodically occur in toll booth plazas, but they’re typically low-speed, without injuries.
Still, other toll road authorities, including the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, have begun installing toll plazas that have only express-lanes with electronic tolling, and no toll booths where traffic must stop and go.
The Central Florida Expressway Authority has not done that and has no immediate plans to remove any toll booths in favor of all electronic tolling. However, when the Wekiva Parkway is built in western Orange and Seminole counties, it will feature express-lane only tolling.
“Because of our visitors, we’re conscious of the fact that not everyone is going to have a transponder, so we try to have cash available as an option as much as we can,” Marshall said. “Overall, nationwide, the toll industry is going toward an all-electronic model, so that may happen in the future, but we don’t have any plans for that now, except for the Wekiva Parkway.”
That particular toll plaza was rebuilt in the middle of the past decade, reopening in 2006. The authority also recently wrapped up construction that widened the travel lanes through that area, but that work did not affect the toll booths, Marshall said. Another construction project is now underway north of there.
Tiffany Walden of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.