Florida’s legislature closed its 2023 regular session on May 5 by approving several multibillion-dollar measures targeting transportation projects across the state. These include the Moving Florida Forward plan for $7 billion worth of construction over four years. Implementation of the plan, pitched in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), would accelerate nearly two dozen major highway projects.
Work ranges from the $1.4-billion reconstruction of Interstate 4 through Osceola County to a new $23-million diverging diamond interchange at the I-75/Pine Ridge Road junction in Collier County.
Moving Florida Forward calls for two general revenue transfers of $2 billion each to the State Transportation Trust Fund. The state will also use “innovative financing tools, contracting and proposed policies” to generate the program’s remaining $3 billion.
Legislators also OK’d a $1-billion increase to the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Over the next twelve months, FDOT will have $13.6 billion to spend on highway, bridge, rail, transit and aviation projects identified in its current statewide five-year work plan, which the agency approved earlier this year.
Efforts to restore southwest Florida highways and bridges damaged by Hurricane Ian last September also received additional funding from the legislature. Allocations include an additional $51.6 million for the Sanibel Causeway corridor, which lost two sections and sustained damage to approaches and seawalls.
Since restoring the causeway in less than four weeks, the joint venture of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Superior Construction and the de Moya Group of Miami have progressed with permanent fixes to the critical Lee County link serving thousands of Sanibel Island residents. Current work includes sheet pile wall installation and other repairs, according to a Superior Construction spokesperson. There’s no word as to how FDOT plans to apply the latest funding allocation.
The legislature also earmarked extra funding for other Ian-damaged structures in Lee County. They include $12.4 million for the Matlacha Corridor. The Board of County Commissioners has asked FDOT for a full replacement of the corridor’s 1.3-mile Little Pine Bridge, which sustained damage to approach slabs and seawall loss. Three other storm-affected bridges in the county will receive a total of $6 million for studies to assess reconstruction options.
Other programs identified for additional funding by the legislature include $200 million to expand the SunTrail recreational trail network within a statewide wildlife corridor, more than $150 million for seaport-related projects and a $100,000 marketing campaign to highlight career opportunities in the road and bridge construction sector.