Florida Senate panel passes I-75 proposal

| Friday, April 30, 2004

A Florida Senate proposal that would create a board with the power to add toll lanes to Interstate 75 in the southwest part of the state advanced April 20.

The Senate Government Oversight and Productivity Committee unanimously approved a measure by Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, to establish the Southwest Florida Expressway Authority. It now moves to the full Senate.

The sole mission of the eight-member group would be to oversee toll road expansion along I-75 in Lee and Collier counties, which lie along the state’s Gulf Coast north of the Everglades.

The authority would have the power to enter into contracts and issue bonds for construction and operation of toll lanes to supplement the six toll-free lanes that are planned along the corridor, The News-Press reported.

S2938 would prohibit the authority from exerting its powers elsewhere unless Lee and Collier county commissioners approve. In addition, the county commissioners would have to sign off on the measure for it to become law, a provision local officials said was critical for their support.

On April 16, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved a similar measure – H1615 – by Rep. Mike Davis, R-Naples.

The amount of money the tolls would generate is not known, the newspaper reported. All toll revenue would stay with the I-75 authority.

If the Legislature and governor approve either bill, the authority could be established after July 1.

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