Transportation and infrastructure funding has evolved into one of the most important pieces of the state budget. While partnerships with local governments and alternative financing mechanisms have proven helpful in meeting the state’s demands, Florida still relies almost entirely on the State Transportation Trust Fund being robustly funded each year. Nowhere in the state budget is there a greater need of consistent, sustainable funding than transportation and infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure projects all require long-term planning and funding necessary for completion. Any disruption to funding these projects would have significant effects on the state’s ability to keep pace with the demands of growth. Additionally, the projects produce jobs and economic activity. In fact, for every $1 invested in the Department of Transportation Work Plan, nearly $6 is returned to the state’s economy; and for every $1 billion invested in road construction and improvements, more than 28,000 new jobs are created for Floridians.
Under the leadership of Governor Rick Scott, investment into the state’s seaports has grown, returning $1.76 for every $1 invested, with that number expected to increase to $2.71 for every $1 spent on seaports by 2020. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) investment in airports has brought the state $1.37 for every $1 spent, with that number growing to $1.72 for every $1 spent by 2020.
The positive economic impacts of investing in Florida’s infrastructure industry is directly dependent on the sanctity of the State Transportation Trust Fund.
AIF OPPOSES redirecting financial resources and State Transportation Trust Fund commitments to any areas other than the State Transportation Trust Fund or sweeping funds from the State Transportation Trust Fund to areas outside of transportation infrastructure.
Experts in infrastructure policy and elected officials alike can all agree that state dependence on gas tax revenues as a major source of infrastructure funding is growing more untenable each year. With the advancement of technology and the push for fuel efficiency measures, infrastructure industry leaders and the FDOT have asked Florida policymakers to consider new and inventive ways to fund transportation infrastructure projects in the face of declining gas tax revenues for Florida. There is no question that with these trends, Florida may experience decreases to sustainable levels of funding for the Five-Year Work Plan.
AIF SUPPORTS creating an alternative solution to the state’s current exclusive reliance on gas tax revenues to obtain sustainable funds for state infrastructure needs. This should include a fair and equitable way for both the Federal Government and Floridians alike to support and provide financial stability across the transportation and infrastructure spectrum.
Florida’s geographic proximity to the Americas requires a certain level of commitment from local, state and the federal governments to resource the state’s ports in order to maximize the economic opportunities available through ports in Florida. In recent years the state’s seaports and the state of Florida have successfully partnered to advance the maritime industry’s role in growing Florida’s economy, both domestically and internationally. Through the reduction of regulations, quality appointments to port authorities and in conjunction with individual port authority directors, never before has the state utilized its port system in a way that can make Florida as competitive in the hemisphere as it is today. One example of this is the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development (FSTED) program. The FSTED program serves as an important mechanism for seaport capital improvement projects, which is crucial to the growth of the state’s port systems. Preserving this program and increasing its value to Florida’s seaport partners is critical.
AIF SUPPORTS maintaining funding levels for FSTED at $25 million, an important provision for Florida’s ports. AIF also SUPPORTS creating the FDOT Business Development Program as a mechanism to help educate and provide expertise to Florida small businesses looking to do work in the epartment’s often complex procurement process.
During the past several years, exploration has uncovered a supply of natural gas in the United States, resulting in a reduction in the price of natural gas and an increased interest in natural gas-powered vehicles, fuel plants, and refueling infrastructure. In 2013, the Florida Legislature took the lead in encouraging public and private sector organizations to convert their gas and diesel-powered fleets to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified natural gas (LNG) through the Natural Gas Fuel Fleet Vehicle Rebate Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). The purpose of the program is to help reduce transportation costs and encourage freight mobility investments that contribute to the economic growth of the state by incentivizing organizations to convert their fleets through rebates.
AIF SUPPORTS the continued funding of the Natural Gas Fuel Fleet Vehicle Rebate Program, and allowing both public and private entities to reapply for additional rebates when converting their fleets to CNG or LNG when there are outstanding funds for the program at DACS.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) represent the most progressive of all innovations in the transportation industry today. Since 2012, Florida has tested and formed public policy to advance the use of AVs so that companies can have predictability as they enter the Florida marketplace. While comfort and convenience are important factors in Floridians choosing this innovation, a driving factor occasionally overlooked is the public safety aspect of AVs on the roadways. In 2016, 40,000 people died in vehicle-related crashes across America - a 6% increase from 2015 - and there were over two million crashes many with serious injuries and property damage. Of these crashes, 94% were the result of human error. AVs should be part of the solution to save lives and prevent injuries and property damage. AVs also have tremendous potential to benefit underserved communities who do not have access to mass transit, and provide independence to people who have not been able to drive a vehicle due to disabilities. In addition to the societal benefits, AVs will provide a number of economic benefits such as reshaped and reduced land use and roadway infrastructure, reduced traffic congestion, saved time, and reduced energy consumption.
Although Florida already has broad authority for AV operation in the state, there are certain provisions within the existing motor vehicle laws that require or presume there is a human driver behind the wheel. AIF SUPPORTS modernizing state law to accommodate for self-driving technologies that open up the door for safe, reliable modes of AVs in a competitive marketplace.
In the fall of 2016, the Federal Government and Volkswagen (VW) entered into a $16 billion settlement resolving claims that VW violated the country’s Clean Air Act. Within the agreement was a stipulation that all 50 states would receive funds from the settlement, Florida’s share being $166 million. It was determined the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) would serve as the Trustee for these funds and administer the funds according to the agreement. For Florida, these funds may be used for projects related to alternative fuel vehicles, purchase and replacement of fuel engines with all-electric engines, or other infrastructure projects where the use of alternative energy sources is primary. Public and private entities are eligible for the funds, including school buses, transit vehicles, freight trucks and locomotives. In all, there are ten separate categories where public and private entities may apply for a portion of Florida’s settlement funds.
AIF ENCOURAGES the FDEP to adopt an equitable approach to funding the category eligibilities. This approach will leverage the use of the settlement funds across a broad spectrum of industries, which is necessary for an industry diverse state such as Florida. Additionally, AIF ENCOURAGES Florida to use this opportunity to maximize the use of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) by the use of trust funds that would draw down additional matching funds to the state.
Predictable and safe access for Florida’s major sea ports including Jacksonville, Canaveral, Palm Beach, Everglades, Manatee, Tampa, and Panama City is key to ensuring port activities are run both effectively and timely. For the last several years, AIF has advocated for both increasing investment into Florida’s sea ports and reducing burdensome regulatory blocks that stymie daily port activities. While this investment has resulted in significant growth for the port industry in recent years, AIF is also focused on the safety and wellbeing of the ports, their employees, and partner industries alike. Thus, there are times when implementing thoughtful guidelines for our ports can be helpful in their overall success and safety.
Prompt reopening within 24 hours for Florida sea ports post disaster is critical for providing fuel for Florida, servicing the cruise industry, and for exports and imports contributing to Florida’s significant foreign trade. It is worth noting that the Caribbean and Central America depend heavily on Florida for many of their imports and critical supplies as these regions are generally impacted first by storms and hurricanes. They are heavily dependent upon the support and assistance that Florida provides after a disaster.
Sea port openings can be obstructed by wayward vessels blocking docks or channels as a result of storms, tornados and hurricanes. Quickly resuming port operations and productivity while maintain safety and infrastructure security is paramount. AIF encourages the State to advance policies and correct current legislation that would expedite the timeline for pre-and-post disaster removal of vessels considered to be a danger to commercial traffic for the ports. These measures may include requirements for proper personnel be on-site and pre-event contracts are in place to expedite a post-event assessment and opening of a sea port within a maximum of 24 hours after the event.
These measures must also include provisions that ensure safety and protect the port, its environment, tenants, and its employees. Therefore, AIF SUPPORTS legislation increasing enforcement to promptly remove any vessel, prior to or after a disaster, within one mile of the port or its channel to ensure the vessel does not pose any environmental hazards or potential danger for access to the port or its facilities. This will ensure that port operations are not adversely impacted by stranded or abandoned vessels that the port authority deems a potential, present or future hazard.