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Lawmakers pave way for road projects; includes $70M in Lee


TALLAHASSEE -- As Florida lawmakers put the finishing touches on this year’s legislative session, they approved a request from Gov. Ron DeSantis to help speed 20 highway projects across the state under the banner of “Moving Florida Forward.”

“I requested $4 billion for Moving Florida Forward so we can get ahead of some of these traffic problems,” DeSantis said Friday during a news conference after lawmakers ended the 60-day session. “Some of these items may take 20 years. I want to accelerate that to get it done much sooner. And the Legislature responded.”

When pitching the plan in January, DeSantis put forward as examples: $1.451 billion to reconstruct Interstate 4 from ChampionsGate to the Osceola Parkway in Central Florida; $479 million to add auxiliary lanes to Interstate 75 between Wildwood and Ocala; $340 million to improve the Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 interchange in Ormond Beach; $162 million to widen Interstate 10 near Pensacola; and $150 million to upgrade the Interstate 95 interchange at Golden Glades in South Florida.

The four-year plan -- requiring a pair of $2 billion transfers from general revenue to the State Transportation Trust Fund -- also seeks to borrow an additional $3 billion for the work.

Before adjourning, lawmakers passed a $117 billion budget (SB 2500) for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, which will start July 1.

In a addition to the Moving Florida Forward money, other actions during the session that will affect how Floridians get around include:

  • Lawmakers approved $13.6 billion for the Department of Transportation’s five-year work program, which lists projects throughout the state. That would be up from $12.6 billion in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
  • Lawmakers approved $200 million to expand the SunTrail Network within a statewide wildlife corridor (SB 106). DeSantis has already signed the legislation.
  • Lawmakers approved $150.5 million for such things as seaport grants and projects.
  • Lawmakers approved $100,000 for a marketing campaign to highlight “the rewarding career paths in the road and bridge construction industry.”
  • Lawmakers approved a bill (HB 425) that would expand the state’s “Move Over Law,” which requires motorists, where possible, to move over for first responders, sanitation trucks, utility trucks and wreckers on the roadside. The bill would apply the requirement to moving over for broken-down vehicles.

The budget also includes money for numerous local transportation projects, including in areas that sustained damage in Hurricane Ian. Example of the local projects:

  • $51.67 million for Sanibel Causeway corridor repairs in Lee County, where Ian made initial landfall.
  • $12.4 million for repairs in the Matlacha corridor in Lee County.
  • $6 million for studies on the Big Hickory Pass, Little Carlos Pass and New Pass bridges in Lee County.
  • $5 million for a Moffitt Cancer Center Life Sciences Campus road in Pasco County.
  • $4.5 million to extend the runway and taxiway at Wauchula Municipal Airport.
  • $1 million for U.S. 1 interchange improvements at County Road 210 in St. Johns County.

Lawmakers also approved a series of road designations (HB 21). They included:

  • Designating the bridge on State Road 3 over the Canaveral Barge Canal in Brevard County for Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher killed in 1986 on the space shuttle Challenger.
  • Designating the new NASA Causeway Bridge on State Road 405 over the Indian River in Brevard County for astronaut Sally Ride.
  • Designating a stretch of Cortez Boulevard in Hernando County for the late conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.