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Where Do The Candidates For Florida Governor Stand On Transportation?

Aug 14, 2018

Whoever becomes the state's next governor will inherit a transportation system bogged down by crowded roads and a lack of mass transit options.

In its most recent report, the American Society of Civil Engineers called transit in Florida "mediocre," noting that only two percent of Floridians commute using public transportation. As we head into the August 28 primary, we took a look at what gubernatorial candidates have said about transportation, and it seems they have little to offer in the way of solutions:

Investing more money in mass transportation is a rallying cry for Democratic candidates for governor.

This was exemplified by former Tallahassee congresswoman Gwen Graham when she spoke to Democratic donors at fundraising event in Tampa.

"Our roads have turned into parking lots," Graham said. "We have got to start investing in mobility, in allowing people to get into mass transit opportunities and move from one place to the other."

But despite the passion, none of the Democratic candidates have really provided anything more specific than that. They've only mentioned in passing some different transit options such as high speed rail, busses and bike lanes. No one has said how they would pay for mass transit.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has even suggested the state look in to Hyperloop - a system of pods traveling in sealed tubes that's being developed by tech tycoon Elon Musk. Right now it only exists in theory.

Levine said public transportation key to attracting what he calls 21st century businesses.

"Look at the HR manuals of Apple, Ebay, Amazon, Lockheed, Boeing, all these great companies we want to come to Florida; They're all the same," he said. "They are pro-education, pro-health care...and if they're going to come, they want public transportation wherever they're going to come."

South Florida billionaire Jeff Greene and Orlando businessman Chris King have both voiced their support for partnering with the private company Brightline, which is trying to build a high-speed rail system between Miami, Orlando and Tampa.

King has raised concerns, though, about the project's trial run in South Florida where more than six people have been killed on the tracks and some critics argue the system could damage the environment.

Talking about Florida's transportation problems gives Democrats a platform to attack Gov. Rick Scott. In 2011 he turned down federal funds for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum did just that when he spoke to Jacksonville's WJCT. 

"We had an opportunity during the Obama administration to pull down 1.3 billion (it was actually more than $2 billion) dollars to help build high speed rail across the I-4 corridor - the fastest growing corridor in this state," Gillum said. "We've got to lean into the future of transportation in this state. Asphalt will not build us out of gridlock."

On the Republican side of the race, more asphalt is exactly what candidates are calling for.

Two-term Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has said he supports state lawmakers looking to add even more roads.

"The legislature moved forward this year with looking at new corridors for our interstate highway system," Putnam said. "We have not substantially expanded the interstate system since our population was about half of what it is today."

Congressman Ron DeSantis of Port Orange, the favorite of President Donald Trump, has made similar comments. He told WTSP-TV in Tampa that he's skeptical of state investment in mass transit.

"I don't think that doing like a train is going to be the answer to it," he said. "I think we are basically an automobile-centric society, and until that behavior changes, I think we need to work on upgrading and expanding our roadways."

But just like all five Democratic candidates, neither one of the Republicans have shared a specific plan for fixing the state's gridlock.