Ahead of Wreaths Across America, Patriot Guard Riders ask governor to temporarily suspend tolls

LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- Three days before the Patriot Guard Riders lead a procession carrying thousands of wreaths to South Florida National Cemetery, the group has asked Governor Rick Scott to temporarily suspend the tolls along a 60-mile stretch of Florida's Turnpike between the Treasure Coast and South Florida.

"It's a major safety concern with us which is why we want to use the Turnpike versus I-95," Jim Kamen, an assistant state captain with the Patriot Guard Riders said. "I-95 is dangerous whereas the Turnpike gives us some protection with only a few exits and entrances to deal with."

Kamen said he made the request after he calculated that more than 100 motorcycles would travel with several semi-trailer trucks from the Walmart distribution center in the 4000 block of Jenkins Road in Fort Pierce to the cemetery in the 6000 block of State Road 7 in suburban Lake Worth.

"Even though we've got 12,000 wreaths that we want to place on the headstones of the veterans that have passed, it doesn't qualify," Kamen said.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees SunPass, the state's prepaid toll program, said state statues limited when tolls could be suspended to emergencies, funeral processions and to law enforcement.

The Florida Highway Patrol said it had planned to provide additional patrols and traffic escorts along the 60-mile route.

Still, Kamen said he hoped Scott would find a way to intervene.

"It's impressive. I've been told that when people see us coming they stand up and it brings them to tears," Kamen said. "I don't think the governor himself is aware of my request. And so, therefore, he couldn't make the decision."
On Saturday, the Patriot Guard Riders were expected to place wreaths on the grave sites of as many as 12,000 veterans as part of the Wreaths Across America.
Earlier this year, the group said donations to help purchase the wreaths had fallen short.
Donations were still needed, the group said.
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