Florida governor Crist considering toll concessions on three state TRs and bridge - Orlando Sentinel

September 22, 2007

Florida Gov Charlie Crist is seriously considering longterm toll concessions, the Orlando Sentinel reports, on three Florida DOT properties bringing in between $1.12b and $2.92b. The three being considered are:

- Beachline Expressway FL527 which runs as a "bee line" between Orlando and the Atlantic coast (it was formerly called the Bee Line Expressway)

- Alligator Alley I-75 which runs from the northern suburbs of the Miami area west across the Everglades to Naples on the Gulf of Mexico

- the 8km (5 mile long) Sunshine Skyway Bridge which carries I-275 across the mouth of Tampa Bay connecting St Petersburg with Tampa

UBS advising

The Sentinel's Jay Hamburg reports Crist's office has been receiving estimates from UBS on the potential value of toll concessions around the state. Legislation passed a few months ago allows toll concessions to be granted by several different governmental entities for up to 50 years. UBS is working for the Governor of New Jersey on schemes to "monetize" or privatize state assets including the New Jersey Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway, though that exercise seems to have lost momentum.

UBS has estimated that the concessions would be worth in the ranges:

- Alligator Alley $504m to $1,300m

- Beachline Expressway $140m to $321m

- Sunshine Skyway Bridge $477m to $1,300m

Florida DOT says the proposals are all very preliminary.

$2.5b deficit and they haven't even had a decent hurricane this year

Florida's budget is $2.5b in deficit and Crist, a middleground Republican, says he is seeking ways to raise revenue without raising taxes. He is looking to privatize the state lottery (Silly question: Why did the state ever get into operating a lottery? Answer: to make money.) At the same time Crist is negotiating a share of the profits of expanded casino gambling on the lands of the Seminole Indian Tribe.

The governor's office estimates toll concessions could be done in ten months after legal and financial advisers were hired, public hearings conducted and approvals obtained from the state legislative budget commission.

The governor is meeting next week with his secretary of transportation Stephanie Kopelousos to discuss how to proceed.

Avoiding a tax increase

Crist is quoted as telling the Sentinel: "I'm trying to look for innovative ways to have additional revenue to kind of get us to the bridge to the refired Florida economy." (Some serious innovation in mixing of metaphors there!)

 see http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

TOLLROADSnews 2007-09-22

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