March 16, 2019 - 9:00am
Senate President Bill Galvano’s push to expand and build three toll roads may become a negotiation point between legislative leaders, as the House has not put forward a version of the plan.
Galvano, R-Bradenton, indicated he remains optimistic, with House Speaker Jose Oliva and Gov. Ron DeSantis supporting improved infrastructure and transportation.
But as the Senate begins drawing up an initial budget plan, Galvano on Thursday acknowledged that, while lawmakers are only two weeks into the 60-day legislative session, aspects of his ambitious road proposal could be separated to keep them moving forward.
“This is mainly in the beginning stages a function of budget, and so we’ll see whether they (House leaders) are in fact moving the funds into the (State Transportation) Trust Fund,” Galvano said. “And if not, then it will become something we’ll have to negotiate through session.”
Galvano’s plan would extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area north to the Georgia border, extend the Florida Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway and build a new transportation corridor from Polk County to Collier County.
On Wednesday, Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said he’s “open to the conversation” on the plan. But Oliva expressed reservations about issuing bonds and creating debt to help pay for the projects.
“I think one of the few functions of government is creating infrastructure, that allows economic development and it benefits all people,” Oliva told reporters. “So, now how we do it. I’m not a big fan of bonding. So we have to take a look at how it is we do a project like that, the viability of that project.”
The Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to review Galvano’s proposal (SB 7068) on Tuesday.
The proposal calls for the Department of Transportation, with $45 million next fiscal year, to study the three projects.
The funding would grow to $90 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, about $135 million the next year and a recurring amount of $140 million starting in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Part of the money would also cover local “feeder” roads to the new tollways.
The proposal calls for construction to begin by the end of 2022, with the roads open to traffic before Dec. 31, 2030.
DeSantis, who has put an emphasis on relieving traffic congestion in Central Florida and South Florida, has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of toll roads on the pocketbooks of working Floridians.
Galvano has said the roads would help rural communities, address the state’s continued rapid growth, provide new hurricane-evacuation options, expand bicycle and pedestrian trails and lay the groundwork for new water and sewer lines and broadband.
Critics contend the potential impacts of growth on rural communities should be addressed before the roads are approved.