AUBURNDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Dept. of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue spoke in Auburndale at the SUNTRAX Test Facility Toll Operations. Signage at the event read “Moving Florida Forward.”
One-sheets provided to press at the event showed the event was focused on a legislative proposal aimed at fighting traffic congestion across Florida.
“There’s a lot of different things on the horizon, you see a lot of those projects which need to be done, the problem is on the current course, some of those things won’t be done for 20 years,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think we can wait 20 years to get this type of relief.”
The governor said that working with FDOT and state lawmakers, Florida would be pursuing a proposal to expedite 20 major interstate and roadway construction projects over the next four years.
“You’re going to end up seeing some of these projects completed, 10, 12 years ahead of schedule, where they’re currently scheduled now,” DeSantis said. “This year, we’re going to be putting in $4 billion from our budget surplus to be in these key projects. We’re also going to dedicate $134 million each year to the state’s transportation work program.”
The governor said that due to Florida’s high credit rating, FDOT would also be able to use the money for more work programs, totaling “about $7 billion over four years, and it’s really significant,” according to the governor. “We just need to put the funds in place.”
The governor said work would include widening roadways, making existing highway connections more efficient, and making interchanges more free-flowing through expansions to help with traffic flow.
Documents provided to showed the 20 relief projects, as well as the funding that was being recommended for the construction work. Multiple projects were set to help traffic issues in Tampa Bay.
According to the documents, also found online from FDOT, construction projects in the Tampa Bay area would be recommended for:
- S.R. 70 from Bourdside Boulevard to Waterbury Road for $53 million
- I-275 from 38th Avenue to 4th Street for $345 million
- I-75 at the Fruitville Road Interchange for $192 million
- I-4 at the S.R. 33 Interchange for $197 million
- I-4 from U.S. 27 to Champions Gate for $635 million.
After the governor announced the proposal, Perdue spoke to highlight the goals of the program. He said the initiative would “cast a bold new vision” for Florida transportation.
“This type of commitment has not been seen in my 20 years with FDOT,” Perdue said. “People are continuing to flock to the free state of Florida, and many regions are seeing exponential population growth, to include Central Florida. This challenges us to find ways to accelerate much needed infrastructure.”
Perdue said FDOT would “rise to the challenge” to give the infrastructure Floridians need. He said projects such as the ones proposed were why Florida remained “a national leader in transportation.” Perdue promised Florida would continue to cut through red tape in the name of innovation. He said the full program details could be found online from FDOT.
Before DeSantis focused on the main event topic, he spoke about his pride in how Florida had recovered from two hurricanes in 2022 and said that Florida was a “growing, thriving state.” He said Florida was leading the rest of the U.S. for migration, with other states “pushing people out.”
The governor also said that Florida’s unemployment rate was better than the national average, that Florida had “a lot of wealth migrating to the state,” and that while the U.S. had a decreasing unemployment rate, Florida also had a good participation rate, showing workers actually acting in the workforce, rather than not.
As he’s done in the past, DeSantis said Florida was outperforming the national trends for jobs and economic performance, highlighting the state’s reserves and reminding those gathered about a recent toll relief program enacted for 2023. The first set of credits for toll payments begin Feb. 1.
The governor also reiterated a promise to make diapers exempt from sales tax permanently in the coming legislative session, promising more to come.