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MPO approves funding switch for two Manatee projects


SARASOTA - A project in Bradenton and another in Palmetto lost funding from the federal stimulus package on Monday, but were replaced by another project in each city.

The moves were in the Florida Department of Transportation's "Roll Forward" report that tells of projects whose start was deferred into the next year of the Transportation Improvement Program.

The board of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization approved the changes unanimously.

In Bradenton, the nearly $6 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the project to replace the Ninth Avenue Bridge over Ware's Creek was instead sent to the project to work on State Road 64 from 12th Street East to 15th Street West.

In Palmetto, the $855,023 in ARRA funding for the project to do work on 23rd Street West from 14th Avenue West to U.S. 41 Business (Eighth Avenue West) was switched to Haben Boulevard, from U.S. 301 to U.S. 41.

The MPO also heard from the DOT on efforts to encourage more use of alternative transportation for getting to work, appointed a chairman of a 2010 legislative issues committee and ratified the DOT's District One Regional Trails Project Priority List with the Polk TPO and the Charlotte County-Punta Gorda MPO.

Also discussed was the kickoff of the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, with a presentation by Whit Blanton of the Renaissance Planning Group on the update schedule and process.

Gas tax contributions

Rod Warner, who is the chairman of the Citizen Advisory Committee, was standing as a private citizen and said one job the legislative group could take up is the fact that Florida is contributing much more to the federal highway trust fund in gas taxes than it gets back.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood visited the area with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, he said, and the latter said "Florida was a donor state." That means that for every dollar of fuel tax collected in Florida, "the feds slice off a hunk and they donate it to other states."

"Year after year, Florida never gets back all the fuel tax dollars that are collected here," Warner said. "In 2007, the most recent year that I can find, a slice of every Florida dollar was carved off and sent to Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. States up north the feds think we should subsidize."

Florida sent $291 million to those states. "That kind of Florida's forced graciousness happens every year," he said. "Year after year after year."

Average that amount over the 67 Florida counties, and that would be about $8.5 million for the MPO, Warner said. "The estimated takeaway from us this year is expected to be about $340 million," he said. "Haven't we had all the donor pleasure that we can stand?"

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is where it happens, Warner said, and there's a Highway Fairness and Reform Act (House Bill 2144 from Arizona and Senate Bill 903 from Texas), which will allow donor states to opt out.

"I understand the state of Florida administration has not taken a position on the reform act. That's a surprise," Warner said. "I want to encourage the legislative issues committee to recommend that you petition the state of Florida to intensely lobby for the Highway Fairness and Reform Act and that you also raise the urgency of its passage with the Florida congressional delegation."

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, the chairman of the MPO, asked that it be done.


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