AREA TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS
DOT plan could shift spending
Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 1:09 a.m.
Future state transportation dollars could be pulled away from Gainesville and other smaller communities under a draft plan to invest more dollars into major airports, seaports and railways to help boost Florida's economic development.
Local officials expressed concern Wednesday about the Florida Department of Transportation's proposed plan that prioritizes new federal transportation dollars for the state's busiest transportation hubs, which move the majority of people and freight, and the roads that connect them, many of which are rural.
"It seems like the ones that will be left out in the mix are municipalities like Gainesville or smaller communities," said Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson, at a meeting of the county's Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization. "It seems like it's going to benefit places like Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami and it's going to be at our expense."
Marlie Sanderson, an area transportation planner who advises the MTPO, agreed. He said that Duval County, which has a major airport and seaport in Jacksonville, would be in line for 78 transportation projects under the current plan, whereas Alachua County would receive 13.
"We're not here to alarm, only to let you know this plan is to direct a lot of the state's future transportation dollars," Sanderson said.
A DOT representative at the meeting stressed the benefits of shoring up key infrastructure like roadways, railways and airports to foster tourism and other business growth. DOT spokesman Terry Kraft also told the MTPO that the intent is not to take money away from communities like Gainesville.
"There is no intent, plan, thought or anything, to lessen the amount of money coming to this body and this area," Kraft said.
"What we are trying to do is spend the money we do have in a more effective and efficient manner."
The board voted to send a letter to the DOT expressing is concerns about future funding. The letter also will express its opposition to proposed state legislation that would create three new voting, governor-appointed members for every MTPO in the state, including one from the business or development community.
Presently, the MTPO is made up of the entire Gainesville City Commission and Alachua County Commission with two non-voting members. A majority vote of both commissions are required to approve transportation projects that use federal funds - a "balancing act," Sanderson said.
"Why in the heck would we want the governor to appoint people to our local (MTPO's)," County Commissioner Penny Wheat asked.
Carrie Miller can be reached at (352) 338-3103 or email@example.com.
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