Posts Tagged ‘Florida Department of Transportation’

Poor Fort Lauderdale neighborhood pays millions for city streetcar line that won’t reach it

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

By Joseph A. Mann Jr.
FloridaBulldog.org
What does sewage in the streets around western Sistrunk Blvd. (NW 6th Street) in Fort Lauderdale have to do with the $195- million Wave Streetcar line being developed for the city? Plenty, according to Marie “Ms. Peaches” Huntley, neighborhood resident, activist, businesswoman and candidate for commissioner in District 3 of Fort Lauderdale, as well as other critics.
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Space Florida approves loan to get OneWeb factory under construction

Friday, March 10th, 2017

With a $17.5 million, third-party loan arranged and approved Friday by Space Florida, OneWeb expects to begin construction of its satellite factory next week outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center.
OneWeb already had received approval for a $17.5 million package of state incentives through the Florida Department of Transportation in a deal SpaceFlorida worked out last year. The loan, through SunTrust Bank, approved Friday by the SpaceFlorida Board of Directors, expedites the flow of that money to get construction started, while OneWeb and its partners, principally Airbus, work through some corporate arrangements on longterm financing.
The company is committed to building a $300 million satellite factory in Exploration Park, a business park operated by SpaceFlorida. OneWeb’s factory will go in across the street from another space factory already being built there by Blue Origin, for the construction of that company’s next generation rocket, the New Glenn.
Earlier this week OneWeb and Blue Origin announced plans for five launches of OneWeb satellites on New Glenn rockets, from a launch site Blue Origin has leased at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
OneWeb tentatively is talking about breaking ground for the first phase of its new plant next Thursday. When the factory was announced a year ago, OneWeb founder Greg Wyler pledged 250 jobs paying an average salary of $86,000.
The Space Florida board went through the loan arrangement with virtually no debate or opposition.
According to Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the loan is to be paid back by OneWeb or its partners, and if for some reason they cannot, the loan will be paid back through the money the Department of Transportation set aside for incentives last year. “Space Florida is not on the hook,” for the money, he said.
 
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Rick Scott budget proposing cutting $156 million from Tri-Rail over contract

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott is proposing cutting $156 million in state funding for Tri-Rail development unless the South Florida Regional Transit Authority reverses its decision to award a controversial half-billion contract to a lone qualified bidder.
Scott’s proposed 2017 state budget now includes an item calling for “no funding” until the authority withdraws, cancels or otherwise terminates the authority’s Notice of Intent for awarding its operating contract to Herzog Transit Services.
On the line is $156 million the state had programmed for Tri-Rail’s capital outlay from the Florida Transportation Trust Fund.
A transit authority spokeswoman said Tuesday the authority was aware of the governor’s action, but said the authority is declining comment right now.
The authority’s board of directors approved the Herzog contract by a 6-2 vote last Friday against objections from the Florida Department of Transportation and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation.
The Herzog contract is worth $344 million for seven years and has annual extension options that could take it out to 10 years for $511 million. It was awarded after the transit authority’s staff unilaterally rejected five other proposals for the service on technical grounds. Some of the proposals asked far less money, as low as $396 million for ten years.
The other companies bidding on the contract, including the current operations contractor Transdev Services of Maryland, have challenged the staff rulings that there were technical issues with their proposals. Specifically, the staff had cited language that the staff interpreted as meaning the bid prices were conditional. The companies have since responded that is not the case.
The governor’s budget item also declares that before the SFRTA can obtain a new contract for operations and maintenance services, it will have to “obtain the department’s written approval of all items and conditions of the new procurement and contract for the

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Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold threatens to pull Tri-Rail’s state money

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Blowback erupted from another direction for the South Florida Regional Transit Authority late Friday over its big and controversial Tri-Rail operations contract when Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold questioned the agency’s accountability and threatened to cut off its state money.
Boxold sent the transit authority’s Executive Director Jack Stephens a letter late Friday questioning the SFRTA’s accountability and saying the department now will be reviewing state funding for the commuter rail system, “and may elect to withhold such funding in the future.”
The trigger for Boxold’s response came when the SFRTA Board of Directors voted on Friday afternoon to award a long-term railroad operations and maintenance contract to Herzog Transit systems – after the transit authority’s staff first tossed out five competing bids, including some that would have cost up to $115 million less.
The rejected companies challenged their rejections in court last week but lost. Yet, saying “it just didn’t look right,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes issued a stern warning Thursday to the SFRTA board that it should hold off on the contract decision for a while, to allow time for more scrutiny.
On Friday, by a 6-2 vote, the board awarded the contract to the only proposal left after the staff review. That deal calls for the SFRTA to pay Herzog $344 million to run the trains for seven years, with three annual renewal extensions that, if exercised, would push the total bill to $511 million. At least some of the other proposals – all rejected by transit authority staff in late December on technical grounds that the companies are disputing – were as low as $269 million for seven years and $396 million for ten.
FDOT’s official representative on the SFRTA board, District IV Secretary Gerry O’Reilly, voted against letting the contract, as did board chairman Tim Ryan, a Broward County Commissioner.
Boxold characterized the contract award as being in defiance

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Orlando is building the train station, not sure when or if trains will arrive

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

By the end of this year Orlando’s gleaming new $211 million train station should be virtually finished at Orlando International Airport, but it may be many years before trains start rolling in – if at all.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority is building a train station based on a vision of the future in which planes, trains, cars and buses all come together at what would be Florida’s tourism hub, with a people-mover tram connecting the station to the main air terminals, and a walkway to the next big air terminal GOAA plans to build next door. There also will be a new parking garage there.
In the vision, the planes would arrive from Sao Paulo, London, Frankfurt, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and elsewhere. The visitors move to the station from the main terminal on the people-mover trams, and then board high-speed trains for South Florida, commuter trains to downtown Orlando and the rest of the SunRail corridor, or light-rail trains to the Orange County Convention Center and the glittery hotels and attractions of International Drive. Or they get off those planes and trains and board buses or taxis, or rental cars, to explore the world’s tourism Mecca of Central Florida.
Construction of the station, known in transportation-jargon as the Orlando Intermodal Transportation Facility, began with contracts and promises for multiple trains and the kind of widespread civic support for which Orlando’s big projects are known.
“We’re moving along. We expect the project to be substantially complete,” GOAA Executive Director Phil Brown said of the train station, the parking garage and the people mover. “We’ll probably be operational in the fall of 2017.”
But trains never come easily for Orlando.
Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, just unveiled its first train set in West Palm Beach, with assurances that it and 15 others should start rolling,

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What to make of House candidate Jackie Toledo?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Jackie Toledo, the oft-controversial Republican running for Florida House District 60, has a major fundraiser planned for Wednesday.
And while the invitation for the event is studded with dozens of local Republican heavyweights, I’m still not sure what to make of Toledo.
Is she, as I want to believe, the latest in a line of Hillsborough Republican female pols who were initially underestimated by their critics and the media (think Sandy Murman during her stint in the Florida House)?
Or is Toledo, as La Gaceta’s Patrick Manteiga will tell you, a Tampa Bay version of Michele Bachmann (I guess that would make Toledo the second coming of Ronda Storms)?
Toledo had a rocky entry into electoral politics, making a series of errors (forced and unforced) during her 2015 bid for the Tampa City Council.
During that campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported that her campaign was using an image that photography experts said consisted of her photo superimposed on Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s official portrait and that she used video shot without permission on a Florida Department of Transportation construction site in a campaign commercial.
Those miscues barely rose to the level of a misdemeanor, but when a political action committee that attacked her opponents appeared to have connections to her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, the first-time candidate would not be given a second chance to make a first impression.
“The ugliness wasn’t just in the mail,” wrote La Gaceta assistant editor Gene Siudut in March 2015. “The campaign was rotten in every aspect … You name it; it happened in this race.”
When Toledo announced that she was running for House District 60, most of the state and local Republican establishment lined up behind her primary opponent, Rebecca Smith.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced support for Smith in August, three days after she met with the two at a speech Putnam gave

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Rick Scott declares state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Matthew

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all of Florida as Hurricane Matthew barrels toward Jamaica and Haiti.
Heavy bands from the Category 4 storm have already flooded streets and sent many people to emergency shelters in the two countries. Two deaths have already been reported in Haiti, bringing the total for the storm to at least four.
“If Hurricane Matthew directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven’t seen since Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992. This is why we cannot delay and must prepare for a direct impact now,” said Scott in a statement Monday. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best, and we will not take any chances to ensure our state is prepared.”
Scott said the decision to declare a state of emergency across the state ensures Florida has resources for evacuations, sheltering and other logistical needs. While the storm isn’t projected to directly impact Florida, Scott said the storm could “threaten our state with very little notice and no one should be caught off guard.”
In his statement, Scott said the National Guard is ready to be deployed if needed. The state, he said, is also taking steps to move additional fuel to the east coast and have extra fuel trucks on standby “to get anywhere in our state.”
Matthew had sustained winds of 140 mph as it moved north, up from 130 mph earlier in the day. The center was expected to pass just east of Jamaica and near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti early Tuesday before heading to eastern Cuba, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the center.

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Jack Latvala to FDOT: Don’t turn lanes on Howard Frankland into toll roads

Monday, September 26th, 2016

State Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday wrote to the Florida Department of Transportation objecting to any plan to start charging tolls on current lanes of the Howard Frankland bridge.
Latvala was reacting to recent news that state officials plan to take one of the four existing lanes in each direction on the bridge and charge tolls. Until recently, local officials understood the plan, which is part of a wider highway expansion proposal known as the Tampa Bay Express, was to add new lanes to the bridge. Those new lanes would be tolled.
Instead, FDOT planned to reduce the non-toll lanes in each direction from four to three and charge a fluctuating rate for the use of the toll lane. Latvala objects to the idea, saying it will make the commute across Tampa Bay even longer for those who can’t, or won’t, pay the toll.
Latvala’s letter to Paul Steinman, FDOT district secretary:
“I write you today with great concern about any notion or idea to take current lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge and turn them into toll lanes. This would be an immediate impediment to creating a business environment uniting the entire Tampa Bay region. With the Howard Frankland Bridge reaching its end of serviceable years, now is not the time to take current lanes and collect tolls from my constituents who use the bridge to get to work and do not want to have their commute times increased.
“In discussions with previous secretaries from the Department of Transportation, they assured me that if express lanes with tolls were to be implemented, they would be new lanes, not taking already existing lanes and designating them as express lanes.
“This pay-to-commute-efficiently concept is counterintuitive to creating a friendly business environment for the greater Tampa Bay Region and is a proposal to which I believe my constituents

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Florida Poly and FDOT team up on SunTrax testing facility

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Who knows: Florida Polytechnic University could be where one of the self-driving cars of the future is tested.
The school and the Florida Department of Transportation on Monday agreed to partner on the creation of a new “transportation technology testing facility” to be called SunTrax.
SunTrax will include a 2.25 mile oval track on a 400-acre site in Polk County, located between Tampa and Orlando.
“The creation of this facility will establish Florida as a transportation technology leader and create a high-tech hub for the research, development and testing of emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and automated and connected vehicles,” a press release said.
“The construction of the oval track will be designed to support high speed testing of toll technologies, with multiple lanes and parallel tolled express lanes similar to those being constructed on many current highway widening projects throughout the state,” it said.
“The approximately 200-acre infield of the track will be developed next, and is expected to become a hub for automated and connected vehicle testing,” the release added. “The infield will be developed in partnership with Florida Poly, allowing the University to offer its students unique opportunities to participate in the research, development and testing of cutting edge technologies.
“A few of the features that would likely be included are a learning laboratory, a simulated city center, suburban and rural roadways, interconnected signalized intersections, interchange ramps, roundabouts, various types of pavement, and many others.”
 
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Sally Swartz: Are real changes or just distractions coming from FDOT?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Deposit play money labeled “Martin mobility bucks” in boxes labeled with road projects. Or play a big screen computer game, voting for projects on a hand-held clicker.
Martin County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization gets an “A” for effort in trying to get residents involved in deciding how the state should spend money building roads, bike paths and trails in the county.
But the 25 residents deserve extra credit for braving heavy rain and flooded roads to attend the MPO’s open house at Indian River State College’s Stuart campus this past Wednesday.
The MPO, which includes elected officials from local governments who choose future road projects, recently has been in the public eye after residents decided they don’t like some of its plans for the county.
For the next two months, residents can weigh in on how the Florida Department of Transportation should spend almost $228 million on Martin County roads over the next 25 years.
The agency votes on final plans Dec. 14.
Residents unhappy with plans to six-lane S.R. 76 (Kanner Highway) from Cove to Monterey Road can continue to protest the project or suggest ways to improve it. Many see the proposed concrete jungle entrance off Interstate 95 as out of character for nature-loving Martin.
So far, FDOT’s response has been to threaten to take money away if projects aren’t approved, or to shift responsibility to the county.
Instead, the MPO could create a beautified, landscaped median along all of S.R. 76, suggests former Martin Commissioner Donna Melzer in an email to residents.
If the MPO wants Martin residents to pay for that, the MPO should in exchange take on maintenance of the new Veterans Memorial Bridge, she said, expected to cost $3.8 million for 2015-16. The state maintains other bridges it builds.
Some see other projects, such as a spending millions on Citrus Boulevard, as easing Port St.

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Shari Anker: Battle to save 2 preserve state parks teaches statewide lessons

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

The story of the Port St. Lucie Crosstown Parkway Bridge tells how we lose Florida’s  natural beauty, resources, and ecosystems, even if they exist in our Preserve State Parks. It’s the story of a battle that must be fought if we are to save any of them.
In 1990, the city of Port St. Lucie surveyed federal, state, and regional natural resource/regulatory agencies about building a bridge through the North Fork of the St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve — established in 1972— using two potential routes. All agencies commented that both routes crossed very environmentally sensitive lands and waters, affecting important wetlands. And of the two, they were firmly against what’s now known as Route 1C.
Undeterred, the Port St. Lucie city manager stated that since there was unanimous disapproval, the next step was to go “political.”
That was done. Then-state Sen. Ken Pruitt was enlisted to lobby for the cause. Engineering consultants were hired for millions of dollars to make the case that Route 1C was the “most beneficial.”
In 1996, the city began buying property along the Route 1C corridor, even though the National Environmental Policy Act dictates that an objective Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Impact Statement be completed prior to route selection. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection demanded, unsuccessfully, that an EIS be performed for the entire proposed Crosstown Parkway from Interstate 95 to Hutchinson Island. Project segmentation can substantially underestimate a project’s cumulative effects.

By 2006 the bridge project was being reviewed by the Florida Department of Transportation, which solicited comment from reviewing agencies such as the DEP. Many agencies “red-flagged” the proposed bridge crossing because of negative effects to parklands, wetlands, and wildlife.  No matter, the EIS declared that a road piercing the heart of important public lands was the very best possible route.
If the city chose any other route,

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