Florida Senate President Bill Galvano is the driving force behind a new transportation plan coming up for another committee discussion in the Senate Tuesday. But the measure could face a bumpy road in the House.
Senate President Bill Galvano says Florida’s population has grown and its infrastructure needs to keep pace.
“You know if we’re talking about 850 people a day, that’s a city a little larger than the size of Orlando every year coming on. And when I talk about infrastructure I’m not just talking about roadways. Multipurpose because you have to have the water availability, sewer, all these issues. We are challenged by our own success,” Galvano says.
Galvano wants to extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border and extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway. He also wants to build a roadway called the Heartland Parkway. The plan is to make the most of the construction by co-locating water, sewer, and internet services as well as bike lanes and foot paths. Galvano says that paves the way for some of the state’s more rural communities to grow. But that’s a concern for Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen.
“We’re concerned about the opportunity costs of fragmenting the landscape, habitat, watershed features and the tremendous potential for sprawl. The interchanges and the intermingling of the roads with providing from the get-go water and sewer—that is a recipe for sprawl,” Cullen says.
And Cullen isn’t the only one with concerns. Governor Ron DeSantis has said he’s “very sensitive” to the idea of signing onto projects that could result in Floridians paying more tolls. Branden Republican Senator Tom Lee is ushering Galvano’s plan through the Senate Committee Process. He says the bill provides a funding stream for the proposed projects which includes using money from the state’s transportation trust fund--some of which has previously been directed to general revenue. But Lee admits the project does expand tolls roads. He says he wishes there was another option.
“But until someone with the courage and the vision to fix the delta that’s being created by the demands on our state infrastructure and the per capita deterioration of the gas tax due to fuel efficiency, electric vehicle etc. we’re not going to have any option in Florida. These kinds of facilities are going to have to funded through mechanisms like this or we’re not going to be able to build them,” Galvano says.
Lee says he expects to see the bill change as more stakeholders weigh in and the measure moves through the process.
“We’ve tried to think through this. There’s probably a lot more to do and there’s probably a lot more the House will have in store as well,” Lee says.
But so far, there’s no House Companion for the bill. President Galvano told a group of reporters he believes House Speaker Jose Oliva supports a plan for infrastructure expansion and Galvano expects to see that issue work out as both chambers work through their budget proposals.
“This is mainly in the beginning stages a function of budget and so we will see whether they are moving the funds into the trust fund and if not then it will become something we’re going to have to negotiate through session,” Galvano says.
Galvano says there’s plenty of time left in the legislative session for his idea to move forward. The final day of the regular session is May 3.