Gov. Scott wants spending boost for roads, ports

Governor to make announcement Monday afternoon at JAXPORT

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida Gov. Rick Scott used JAXPORT as a backdrop Monday afternoon to announce he wants a $200 million increase in additional transportation funding this year.

Scott called for state legislators to set aside $8.8 billion for the Department of Transportation budget in the coming year.

The DOT budget is financed largely by gas taxes and federal grants, and the amount spent usually depends on how much money is available.

"Last year, we secured a record $8.6 billion for transportation investments and we continue to see tremendous results in Florida as we spur economic development and create jobs," Scott said. "From construction jobs to increased trade opportunities, transportation projects provide tremendous job and economic benefit. This investment will enable our state to remain competitive for many years to come."

Part of Scott's budget request will include nearly $139 million for improvements to Florida's seaports, with $2.6 million of that will go to pier upgrades at Blount Island in Jacksonville.

"This is going to be even more jobs for Florida families," Scott said during an interview Monday on Channel 4's The Morning Show. "I think 65,000 jobs are tied to JAXPORT."

Sandy Seabrook, a driver who escorts trucks in and out of the port, says he's glad money is being spent on something other than dredging.

"We have a beautiful port, but we are not utilizing it.  We should be operating more like 80 percent  before you start talking about developing the port or deepening the channel," Seabrook said.

Scott said a record number of tourists in the state has helped grow gas tax revenue and make additional money available for transportation projects, but would not rule out the current plan to add toll lanes to area highways.

"We are growing a lot of different ways -- a lot of public and private partnerships," Scott said. "And (are) going to be a lot of opportunities to work with companies, managed lanes and do things like that."

Scott is spending January highlighting parts of his annual budget request to the Florida Legislature. Lawmakers will consider the governor's request during the annual legislative session that starts in March.

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