Florida bill suggests state partner with private industry to ease traffic

| Wednesday, April 28, 2004

A proposal in the Florida House would permit private companies to partner with the state on roadway projects.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, told The Miami Herald the provision would help facilitate projects – such as “reversible lane” toll roads – that let drivers pay a premium to use special lanes to bypass congestion.

Giving private companies authority to add onto Florida’s highways isn’t a new concept. The state passed a law in 1991 allowing them to construct toll roads or passenger rail services that would help alleviate highway backups, although the state Transportation Department kept some oversight for those projects.

And although several companies have expressed interest in projects, the provision hasn’t been used, Reagan said.

His bill – H1027 – authorizes FDOT to form partnerships with companies interested in building or adding to roads. The agency would supply some of the necessary resources to make the projects work, the newspaper reported.

The contract with private industry would likely add to the number of lanes across the state while allowing companies to collect tolls to pay off their investment.

In Miami, for example, the Toll Road Corp. of America has inquired about adding a reversible lane system that would add toll lanes in the median of Interstate 95. Drivers willing to pay could use the lanes, which would have reversible directions depending on rush hour traffic patterns.

Under the bill moving through the state House of Representatives, the roads would have to fall within FDOT’s existing five-year plans.

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