Bumpy road ahead for Florida transportation projects

FDOT has already put 23 road projects on the back burner and canceled 54 more

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation is expecting major budget losses in the coming years as a result of the pandemic.

When asked what areas might be facing cuts to make up for pandemic revenue losses, Senate Budget Chair Kelli Stargel was blunt.

“The roads are not going to deteriorate overnight,” State Sen. Stargel said. “We’re going to maintain some of this process, but I don’t know that we’re going to be able to fund it  to the level we had in the past.”

The Department of Transportation is expecting $2.9 billion less revenue over the next five years. This year alone, the agency deferred 23 projects and canceled 54 others.

“This was truly unprecedented,” Stacy Miller, FDOT’s assistant secretary for finance and administration, said Tuesday.

Lawmakers are already expecting to delay funding for the Sun Coast Parkway extension, a top priority for legislative leadership a year ago. “Right now we can’t afford it, but I don’t want to kill the policy,” State Sen. Ed Hooper said.

Lawmakers are also looking ahead to future transportation woes. That includes the rise of electric vehicles, which will mean less revenue from taxes on gasoline, the primary source of revenue for the Department of Transportation.

“We have to come up with a fair, equitable way to maintain our infrastructure,” Hooper said.

Even though electric vehicles aren’t projected to significantly impact gas tax revenues until 2028, Hooper argues a plan to make up the losses needs to developed soon. He said 2027-28 is just around the corner, so now’s the time to act.

“We can’t wait (until) that happens to start addressing the need,” Hooper said.

Lawmakers have until April 30 to craft a budget with $2.1 billion less than what they thought they’d have last year. So whether cuts are made to transportation or another sector, tough decisions lie ahead.

The Department of Transportation said despite the loss of revenue, it will prioritize safety and preservation related projects. It also plans to continue funding projects that are already active.