Negotiations over the state budget required a special session of the legislature which convened June 1-20. Transportation was a point of alignment between the Senate and House, which had similar funding levels for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) at approximately $10 billion. The FDOT work program’s major projects in Hillsborough were reviewed and approved by the MPO last month in anticipation of a successful budget session.
During the special session, legislators agreed to fund $191 million ofrail improvement grants, specifying that $10 million of that money must be used to upgrade rail corridors with new safety features robust enough that trains running through the area wouldn’t be required to use their horns. The Senate and the House also agreed on SunTrail (State multi-Use, Non-motorized Trails) to receive a $17 million allocation from the State Transportation Trust Fund.
Other line items in the budget approved by Senate and House included $600,000 for a rapid bus transit feasibility study in Hillsborough County, and $1 million to assist the Tampa Innovation Alliance with master planning in the greater USF area. Both of those items were later vetoed by Governor Scott.
A proposal to give the legislature more fine-grained control over FDOT’s $10 billion work program died during the special session. The FDOT program specifies how much funding will be allocated to each state-funded transportation project during the next five years. House-crafted language that was floated during final budget negotiations would have required a vote by the Legislative Budget Commission, a panel of House and Senate members, for any changes totaling more than $3 million.
In Washington, DC, as revenues from the 18-cent per gallon federal gas tax continue to decline against inflation and fuel efficiency, the US Congressional Budget Office has estimated that an additional $85-$90 billion in funding from general revenues will be needed just to maintain current programs over the next six years to supplement the gas tax.The silver lining is that congress voted to extend the federal transportation funding authorization known as Map-21 through the end of July.