A St. Pete based watchdog foundation joined forces with a national group in a study that lists a major I-4 project as one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer dollars.
The report, released Tuesday, criticizes FDOT's $1-4 billion dollar "Beyond the Ultimate" express lanes project as an "boondoggle," saying the money should be partly spent on improvements and other alternative transportation sources instead.
"We need to create more options for people to get around by investing in transit, walking, biking, ride sharing services and other options people want to increasingly see," said Lisa Frank, from the Florida Consumer Network Foundation.
The project aims to widen parts of I-4 around Orlando and eventually parts near Tampa in order to ease congestion.
Frank says they've studied highway expansion projects in cities like Houston that have only made traffic congestion worse.
"These highway projects just actually encourage people to drive even more than we already are," she said.
Jessica Ottaviano, a spokesperson for FDOT released the following statement responding to the report:
Safety is the top priority of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The I-4 Ultimate improvement project completely rebuilds a better I-4 by enhancing the safety of the roadway. The Express Lanes will help manage congestion and provide choices for travelers.
In Central Florida, the I-4 Ultimate project and SunRail are essential transportation links. They have widespread regional support and contribute to the economic growth of the area. Mass transit support is a vital component of the transportation system as well.
Other important points:
- I-4 runs through the heart of Central Florida and was originally built in the 1960’s.
- The current I-4 Ultimate project and the planned segments on the Beyond the Ultimate project will transform the interstate and make much needed improvements to the interstate and intersecting roadways.
- Major projects include pedestrian and bicycle improvements, in the case of the I-4 Ultimate project, it includes two pedestrian bridges as well as sidewalk improvements and new sidewalks.
- Express Lanes have proven successful in South Florida and are planned to expand in other parts of the state.
- Since SunRail began billions of dollars’ worth of transit oriented development has been built, is being built, or is in the pipeline, which improves employment and the quality of life.
- SunRail Phase 2 South, which expands rail service into Osceola County, will give many commuters more options, at least 2,000 additional boardings are expected on day one of Phase 2 South service--expected in mid-2018.
- Studies are underway to offer rail service directly to the Orlando International Airport.