Gasparilla Island traffic slowed a wee bit in December to finish No. 6 for the year all-time at 851,264 paid vehicle tolls.
It was the most paid tolls since 868,693 in 2009. 2012 vehicle counts were roughly 12,000 units over 2011 and 2010, respectively.
The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority reports the 68,238 paid December tolls dropped 3.5 percent and 2,441 vehicles from 70,579 in the same month a year ago. December traffic also fell 2,291 tolls and 3.3 percent from 70,529 arrivals in November.
"I believe the several rain days and more than a week of red ride days (or perception of due to factors nearby at Englewood Beach and on Manasota Key) were contributing factors in the decrease for December," said Jim Cooper, GIBA executive director.
The year 2012 closed out with an annual total increase 1.4 percent and 11,609 more vehicles than last year or about 967 per month more on average.
It remains far short of the all-time record of 904,766 set five years ago in 2007.
What: Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority Board meeting
When: 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20
Why: Swing Bridge contract
Where: Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium
Traffic has remained steady despite two $1 toll increases the past 15 months equaling 50 percent of the $4 toll before the boosts.
Traffic stability is more important than ever after island voters rejected a proposed property tax increase Nov. 6, 2012, and tolls became the only established revenue stream to pay for the estimated $33 million bridge project.
Bonds and a State Infrastructure Bank loan could be added to the financing mix in the coming months. The SIB loan is still expected to come through although Gov. Rick Scott has been slow to grant approval.
The year-over-year December decrease was the fifth monthly traffic decline in 2012 and the second in a row.
December traffic was No. 8 all time for the month. Traffic tolls came in 5,576 behind the all-time December record of 74,814 set in 2008.
Gasparilla Island traffic is now its heaviest quarter with paid tolls usually increasing every month from January through March - a month that has attracted more than 100,000 vehicles the past nine years in a row.