Bill calling for elimination of express lanes dies in subcommittee

FDOT says it would lose $1.5 billion over 10 years

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A proposed bill to ban express lanes in Florida died Thursday in the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.

Despite causing an increase in crashes and confusion, express lanes, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, help move people faster, and that if they were eliminated the state would lose $1.5 billion over 10 years.

All of that money is used to improve and fix roads.

Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, filed SB 250 in January.

It that would have allowed the express lanes to remain in operation only until tolls are collected to pay off the bonds that were created to pay for the project.

Once the bond indebtedness had been met, the bill would require that the tolls be eliminated.

But representatives across the state weren’t in favor of the idea.

"I really do appreciate the safety issues, but as an abundance of caution I will probably be down on this bill today," State Rep. Mike Miller, R -Orlando, said.

There now are at least eight different express lane projects under construction in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Broward County.

"I do think the Ultimate I-4 project is critical for us in Central Florida and to tamper with it right now, I  just wanna be abundantly cautious," Miller said.

Rep. Amber Mariano, R. New Port Richey, said she’d like to see the bill develop into something that would change the system to make it better and not eliminate it.

"It is up to our constituents if they want to pay  for these lanes or not," she said. "I think it's a great way to move traffic quicker. I’d work with you on a cap they can change. I do think there is a benefit to having this system."

Rep. Michael Grant, R- Port Charlotte, said he wouldn’t support legislation that would affect the entire state.

"Maybe if you said it was going to be just Miami-Dade or Broward County, I might say, 'OK try out as a pilot program,' but it just has so much of an impact on the state moving forward," Grant said. 

The bill can still pass if it’s added or attached to a larger transportation bill in the Senate, but a source says that won’t likely happen. 

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