Florida House OKs leasing toll roads

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The Florida Senate is considering a House-approved bill that would let private companies lease the state’s toll roads and bridges, but not the Turnpike.

The Republican-backed bill, HB7033, passed along party lines in the House by a 74-40 vote March 22 after being introduced March 19. The leases would last 50 to 75 years, and companies would pay the state an up-front fee.

“It is the intent of the legislature to strengthen the state’s transportation system by providing the department with innovative financing techniques, including, but not limited to, public-private partnerships, toll facility leases and user fees,” the legislation reads.

A House analysis notes that the transportation department’s long-range plan calls for an investment of $117 billion in transportation improvements through fiscal year 2025, despite a funding shortfall of $53 billion on the Strategic Intermodal System alone.

More fuel-efficient vehicles on the road will hurt federal and state revenues from fuel taxes, which are the major source of transportation funding, the analysis noted.

The measure provides for toll rates tied to inflation, but also allows for increases beyond that. “Toll rates may be increased beyond these limits as directed by bond documents, covenants or governing body authorization or pursuant to department administrative rule,” the bill states.

Toll rate changes could be made no more frequently than once a year, but no less frequently than once every five years, the bill says.

The bill also provides incentives for private companies to build new toll roads.

If the bill becomes law, it would be effective in July.