Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday pledged a record $8.8 billion for the state’s infrastructure this fiscal year, including $138 million reserved for Florida’s seaports.
The seaport money includes $2.6 million reserved for the Blount Island Marine Terminal at JAXPORT, which “will extend the life of existing infrastructure, increase operations and allow the terminal to handle heavier cargo,” Scott said. The governor also added that since 2011, $640 million has been put into ongoing port projects in Florida.
“It’s important that we make our ports and our transportation infrastructure a priority, so businesses … can succeed in a growing global marketplace,” Scott said.
Scott announced the infrastructure allocations at JAXPORT, where he was joined by Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown; Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad; JAXPORT Chief Executive Officer Brian Taylor; and new Florida State College at Jacksonville President Cynthia Bioteau.
When asked where the money for the transportation budget is coming from, Scott said that Florida is growing, with more tourists coming and more people buying homes and condos. Florida’s budget is getting bigger and better, Scott said, due to people traveling on the state’s highways, and he attributed a bigger budget to state sales taxes and property taxes.
Prasad praised the governor and his efforts in the transportation industry, saying that this year’s transportation budget signals the most spent in Florida’s history — just above last year’s $8.6 billion.
“Today’s announcement will allow the department to continue to advance the governor’s vision to create a world-class transportation system by delivering exceptional projects that provide a significant return on investment for Florida taxpayers and create jobs for Florida families,” Prasad said.
Prasad said the $8.8 billion includes $3.8 billion for construction infrastructure for projects such as the widening of Interstate 75. He also said $192 million was planned for bridges’ infrastructure; $134 million will go to safety initiatives; $90 million to raise the state’s Tamiami Trail to “allow water to flow naturally south from the Everglades;” and the money reserved for the state’s ports.
“It is not if, but when, Florida will become the trade gateway of America,” he said, noting that Florida has passed New York in the amount of investment made in seaports and infrastructure.
Brown thanked Scott for his work and visit, telling the crowd that his priority has been to make Northeast Florida the “global gateway of the South.”
“We urge Congress to invest in our nation’s ports and infrastructure to make us more competitive,” Brown said. He also pledged to continue advocating for the deepening and dredging of the St. Johns River, and said he will “pound the pavement” next week in Washington, D.C., as he attends the United States Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting.
Taylor added to the group’s praise for the governor’s efforts, and said that Northeast Florida has the potential to be “a vital regional economy, unmatched quality of life all supported by a thriving port, with a transportation network and a deeper harbor that allows us to continue delivering significant economic value in Jacksonville and to Northeast Florida.”
Taylor praised Scott’s “unwavering support,” saying that in the past two years, more than $120 million has been invested into JAXPORT.
In a gathering with the media following the press conference, Prasad said tourism will be a main source of income for the state this year.
In addition to the transportation budget, Scott announced that Florida State College at Jacksonville will offer a four-year, $10,000 degree in trade and logistics beginning this fall. The new offering is the result of Scott’s challenge last year to Florida’s 23 state colleges to offer $10,000 degree programs.