Florida governor eyes privatization despite negative report

| 10/3/2007

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will still consider the privatization of Interstate 75 and two other roadways despite a financial consultant’s belief that the state would make more money by holding onto the assets.

Interstate 75, also known as Alligator Alley in South Florida, could fetch an estimated $500 million to $1.3 billion from a private investor if it were leased for 50 years, Crist’s administration says.

KPMG LLP, a subsidiary of the Swiss financial firm KPMG International, recently advised that the state could take in between $600 million and $1.6 billion over the same time period if Alligator Alley remained public.

The governor is quoted in the Orlando Sentinel as saying the state needs to reduce transportation deficits now as opposed to later, and he believes a long-term lease would accomplish that.

Crist signed a bill into law June 19 to authorize public-private partnerships for road projects.

Since then, Crist has eyed two roads and a bridge as candidates for privatization. Estimated revenue the leases could bring in includes:

  • Alligator Alley, from the northern suburbs of the Miami area west, through the Everglades, to Naples on the Gulf of Mexico – $504 million to $1.3 billion
  • Sunshine Skyway Bridge, five-mile bridge of I-275 connecting St. Petersburg with Tampa – $477 million to $1.3 billion
  • Beachline Expressway, between Orlando and the Atlantic coast, formerly called the Bee Line Expressway – $140 million to $321 million

In total, the low estimate if all three were privatized would be $1.12 billion whereas the high-end estimate would be $2.92 billion for all three.

Crist has his critics about the proposals, including several state lawmakers. He is convinced the roadways could be leased or sold by July 2008, the Sentinel reported.

– By David Tanner, staff writer