Compromise means gas taxes to fund transit projects

- Area transportation agency MetroPlan has come up with a compromise that will allow gas tax revenue Central Florida receives from the state to be used for transit projects.

Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards howled when the proposal passed last year.  "When someone pays gas taxes at a pump, I believe they assume the tax is going to be used on the roads they drive on."

MetroPlan wanted use a portion of gas tax money on Lymmo, the free bus system in Downtown Orlando, and planned to give them money starting in 2021.

Edwards objected but had been overruled by his fellow Board members until this week.  "In my mind these road projects, widening (State Road) 50, are much more important projects. We have total gridlock when you have tens of thousands of trips a day that are on these roads, so that should in my mind be a priority."

The compromise will still allow 30 percent of the region's gas taxes, or District Dedicated Revenue, to go to what are called "Premium Transit Service."

Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan says those transit projects are needed.   "People can get to work, and that's probably the most important asset that comes from mass transit, is folks that can't afford an automobile can get on a bus, and go get a job and work every day."

Here are the details of what transit projects would qualify under the compromise from the Metroplan presentation:

  • Must be a form of premium transit service as defined by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
  • Must be included in the cost-feasible Long Range Transportation Plan adopted by the MetroPlan Orlando Board
  • Must have gone through either an Alternatives Analysis or similar analysis to evaluate measures of effectiveness, costs and benefits with study results being incorporated in the Long Range Transportation Plan
  • Must be included on the Transit Prioritized Project List approved by the MetroPlan Orlando Board
  • Must be progressing through the project development process and/or have a letter of support from the responsible funding partner(s) to indicate the project is expected to be operational by the year in which start-up funding is first programmed.
  • The responsible funding partner(s) must identify long-term operational funding sources for the project.
  • An analysis is to be conducted and provided to the Board showing the benefits of each transit project proposed for DDR start-up funding under this policy compared with the benefits of the road project(s) that would otherwise be funded with the DDR funds.

Orange Commissioner Ted Edwards says the deal works.  "In the end, we are getting the best bang for the buck as to what will alleviate traffic on our roads."

Two big projects besides Lymmo that could be funded with this money beginning in 2021 are planned rapid bus transit projects for SR 50 (Colonial Drive) in Orange County, and U.S. Highway 192 in Osceola County.

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