Florida DOT Updating Long-Range Transportation Plan

Fri May 27, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Jeff Cronin

Just five years after Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials planned out the next two decades, they’re at it again.

Planners are in the midst of a series of public sessions that will lay the basework for the 2025 Florida Transportation Plan (FTP), which will guide the allocation of more than $100 billion. State law requires the plan be updated every five years.

While the long-term plan likely won’t have much effect on Florida contractors, Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association (FTBA), said it will help material producers make some long range decisions.

With the FTP’s guidelines, the producers can contemplate whether it will be beneficial to invest in another cement plant or expand their quarry, decisions that aren’t made overnight. Burleson is a member of the FTP committee, but the FTBA isn’t playing a major role in the process.

With more of an emphasis this time around on inter-modal systems, which attempt to place more focus on seamless links between roadways and public transportation, Burleson said he’s trying to convince officials a solid road and bridge system will be more beneficial to a greater number of people.

“There’s so much work that needs to be done in Florida,” he said.

While a high-speed rail system may seem like a glamorous transportation solution, “I think you have to examine how you move the most people.”

FTP Project Manager Kathy Neill said the solutions to transportation problems are going to be as diverse as Florida’s landscape. While less populated areas may benefit from bigger and better roadways, areas such as Miami-Dade County may require improved public transportation.

She has heard demand for more north-south connector roads in the northwest part of the state and more east-west connectors in the southwest.

Also, in areas of congestion, one solution may be to create toll lanes to wean some commuters out of the mix.

Contractors tend to place more emphasis on the state’s five-year plan, Burleson said. They use it to figure out what type of work is on its way and where it’s going to be. This information will help them decide what equipment to purchase or whether they should construct a new silo.

Marian Scoiza, FDOT spokesperson, said so much has changed in the past five years that they needed to update the plan to keep it in tune with the state’s transportation needs. The massive population growth — estimates say hundreds of people move into Florida each day — and the increasing numbers of people who commute to work in another county have sparked an update to the FTP.

The cross-county commuting has sparked a need for regional planning, a move away from county-level planning, which Neill said is prevalent in Florida.

In addition, tourism continues to grow, bringing more and more people into the state. FDOT estimates show approximately 75 million people visited the state in 2003, as opposed to just more than 25 million in 1981.

At a meeting this month, Scoiza said some residents she overheard stressed the need for improved coordination of different modes of travel as well as the need for more bike facilities.

A second statewide summit will take place in Tampa in August to firm up public opinion, with a draft of the plan due Oct. 1. The final plan is to be adopted by Dec. 31.

For more information, visit www.ftp2025.com. CEG