Dealing with transportation funding is complex.
I had a similar challenge funding capital expenses for school facilities while serving on the school board. The public was exasperated with children in portables and eventually, by 2002, supported a half-penny sales tax. Each successive board had to make the case to extend the funding.
As you know, a county transportation infrastructure tax was defeated last fall with high inflation, low interest in public transit, and probably a lack of trust in the public sector.
However, there are still impact fees, gas taxes, and general funds. Multiple agencies are involved in transportation – federal, state, toll, and local agencies. It is a complex web of agencies.
I’m a five-year board member of MetroPLAN Orlando, the region’s federal transportation planning agency. I have attended MPOAC Training twice and was recently appointed by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings to sit on the CFX Board of Directors. This past Monday, I had the pleasure of being escorted around the entire CFX system by their chief engineer. I saw where the new exit will be constructed for Binion Road, the lane widenings along SR 429, and the expansions down to Poinciana and Lake Nona.
I have also seen the difference in how local municipalities allocate funding for operations and maintenance. While it is exciting to announce the construction of a new facility, can a municipality maintain the infrastructure? I learned the City of Orlando has $150 million dollars of routine maintenance needed and only budgets $3 million annually. This deficit became painfully obvious while observing city entranceways to neighborhoods along Clarcona-Ocoee Road.
On a good note, we are blessed to hear FDOT will be spending $17 million resurfacing OBT from Hwy. 50 in Orlando all the way northwest to SR 414. We are thrilled to hear of the second deck along SR 414 through Lockhart to offer limited access all the way from SR 429 to I-4.
I’m pleased to hear the City of Apopka is discussing raising their impact fee rates like the county schedule. Based on the abundance of approved projects, I’m not sure these rates will adequately cover the needs. Groups like Orlando YIMBY frown upon sprawl because of the cost of maintaining infrastructure farther out from downtown areas. I believe the solution is to increase growth in downtown Apopka and protect our natural lands, sand hills, and recharge areas.
If you travel throughout Europe, you will mainly find large cities and farmlands. The American Dream of suburbia does not exist. Why? It is incredibly expensive to maintain infrastructure. I must confess I live in suburbia – I like my large lot with trees, a garden, and a swimming pool. But when we look at the costs of maintaining our vast expanse of highways – it is incredibly challenging. The agencies with tolls certainly have an easier task than federally or locally-funded roadways.
This finally leads me to the county and the City of Apopka transportation staff meetings which occurred about two weeks ago, to discuss the challenge of so many new city developments along county roadways. Truly, we need a collaborative approach. County staff wanted to have a preliminary meeting to collect information and proceed with studies. The meeting was beneficial. The county agreed to fund 100 percent of the costs for the study, and the city agreed to complete a list of roadways. I believe the next meeting will result in more specific funding decisions.
In the meantime, it would behoove us all to think more about improving downtown physical structures and social and economic foundations to guard against suburban sprawl. Transportation dollars are simply too hard to come by.
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