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Gov. Bush Pushes to Keep State Moving

Wed February 23, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Carol Morrison


Drivers who use Florida’s major highways are no strangers to traffic congestion. But Governor Jeb Bush has taken steps to speed up a number of key road construction projects that should make traffic flow more smoothly around the Sunshine State while creating numerous opportunities for road construction professionals and equipment suppliers. All this if the Florida legislature approves Bush’s proposed budget for the coming year.

On January 13, the governor’s office announced Bush’s proposal, called the Mobility 2000 Initiative. The package is designed to advance completion of almost $4-billion worth of improvement projects for Florida’s overburdened transportation system.

Declaring that Mobility 2000 would bolster Florida’s economy by enabling greater efficiency in moving people and goods, Governor Bush said the enormous investment in the state’s transportation system “is vital to Florida’s economic prosperity and the quality of life of our residents.”

Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Barry underscored the governor’s comments, stating that the “Interstates, Florida’s Turnpike, and other major highways are the state’s economic lifeblood.”

Governor Bush’s aim with Mobility 2000 is to accelerate completion of projects already on the planning board and scheduled for construction over the next 20 years. The new program calls for completion within 10 years of road system improvements in three core areas: expanding major tourism and trade routes, projects designed to help relieve urban congestion, and boosting effectiveness of emergency evacuation routes from Florida’s extensive and heavily-populated coastal areas.

Among the long-awaited construction projects the Mobility 2000 Initiative will advance are:

• Four-laning portions of State Roads 87 and 79 to improve emergency evacuation routes in Northwest Florida.

• Six-laning portions of Interstate 95 from Daytona Beach to the Georgia line. I-95 is a major evacuation artery, as well as a trade and tourism route.

• Reconstruct Jacksonville’s Interstate 10/Interstate 95 Interchange to relieve urban congestion.

• Rebuild the St. Johns River Bridge on Interstate 4 to provide both urban traffic relief and enhancement of this popular tourist/trade route.

• In Tampa, construction of the Links Project merging the Courtney Campbell Parkway and the Veterans Expressway to ease urban traffic flow. Additional construction will address congestion along the I-4 and I-275 corridor that runs from Polk County in Central Florida, through the Tampa Bay area to St. Petersburg’s massive Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

• Also in Polk County, six-laning to improve the trade- and tourist-intensive US 27.

• Farther south, Palm Beach County will see widening of sections of Interstate 95 (urban congestion and tourist/trade route).

• Miami-Dade County’s Palmetto Expressway will be widened to ease congestion.

How does Governor Bush plan to finance his ambitious program? A combination of increased federal aid, short-term Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE bonds), recaptured state transportation revenue formerly diverted to general government needs, and establishment of a State Infrastructure Bank to provide credit enhancements and loans to accelerate transportation improvements.

For construction companies and their employees, contractors, equipment manufacturers and dealers, Mobility 2000 projects a decade of thriving road construction stretching across Florida. For motorists, the Initiative ultimately will mean less hectic commutes to and from work for residents and easier travel for visiting tourists. Businesses can expect to serve their customers more rapidly thanks to expanded trade routes. And perhaps most importantly, coastal residents will feel safer with more effective emergency evacuation routes in place.

The next legislative session opens March 7 and lawmakers will consider the Mobility 2000 Initiative as part of the Bush administration’s budget for Florida. If the budget plans are approved, Department of Transportation officials expect to begin about $315 million in new projects during the 2000 — 2001 period, with the I-4/St. Johns Bridge project in Volusia County leading the anticipated road work.

Details on the status of Mobility 2000 and Governor Bush’s proposed state budget can be accessed from the Governor’s Web site: www.flgov.com.




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