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Senate President Driving Transportation Changes

Mar 5, 2019
Originally published on March 4, 2019 4:53 pm

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano is paving the way for a new transportation plan as the legislative session kicks into gear. But a bumpy road could lie ahead.

After a decade long break, Florida’s luck has faded. The state has faced direct hits or near misses from hurricanes for the last few years. And as those storms move toward the state, Senate President Bill Galvano says Floridians need a better way to get to safety.

“I think we can improve evacuation access to our rural communities—multi-purpose corridor access,” 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, as well as build the Heartland Parkway. All of those projects mean more tolls.

But Galvano says the new changes could also mean more growth--especially for rural communities. He says Florida’s population is on the rise 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 use $75-million from the state transportation trust fund to pay for researching and developing the projects.

“What I think is necessary is that we recognize that we need this access and these corridors for myriad reasons and that we get on a steady track. And the beginning of that is to take funds that currently are in [general revenue] that were designated for infrastructure and put them back into the transportation trust fund," Galvano says.

But Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s “sensitive” to the idea of expanding or building new toll roads. During a question and answer session last month in Miami DeSantis said his transportation plan would put tax payers first and focus on relieving congestion—particularly in the South and Central Florida areas.

Meanwhile, Galvano say he looks forward to working with the governor and expects to see more collaboration this year than he says he saw with the last administration.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee is scheduled to take up Galvano's plan on the first day of the legislative session.

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