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Despite widespread opposition, our state legislators are moving forward with a plan that would privatize alligator alley for the next 75 years.  The state would “reap” the short term benefits of privatization, gaining about a billion dollars in these “tough economic times” with which to infuse money into our fledgling roadway/transit infrastructure (with a heavy emphasis on roadways…) The Transportation budgetary shortfalls, a national problem as well, is the result of an antiquated, unsustainable gas tax, which has taken a serious hit with the recent hikes in gas prices (combined with the highly subsidized nature all roadways demand.)

The potential lease of Alligator Alley is part of a larger trend toward privatizing major infrastructure assets in the United States.

The federal highway trust fund, which pays for roads, bridge repairs and mass transit, is running multi-billion dollar deficits and on the verge of bankruptcy.

The orgy of Congressional earmarking politics has drained billions from needed construction and maintenance jobs toward lesser priority pork.

Gas taxes haven’t kept pace with inflation. Nobody in Washington was willing to raise taxes when gas was $1.50 or $2 a gallon; they certainly won’t do it when prices are closer to $4.

But $4 a gallon gas has actually accelerated the funding issues. People are driving less. Less gas consumption equals less money for highway construction and mass transit.

”Our approach to funding transportation is broken,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said during a recent visit to South Florida. “It is time for a better approach.”

The privatization of a profitable roadway in Florida is worrisome and extremely short sided.  Even more troubling perhaps, is the way in which our government has gone about this privatization plan – holding interest group meetings in places as far away as Orlando.  As a planner, I too have had professional difficulties establishing the role of public input when it comes to policy issues, but what can be said when our policymakers not only defy the voice of the overwhelming majority but go so far as to complicate the public involvement process?  Could this perhaps be the work of a governor who is trying to make a name for himself on a more national stage?

FDOT will be hosting focus groups on the privatization plan on September 16th and 17th at the Hyatt Bonaventure, 250 Racquet Club Rd., Weston.

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We recently took the above photograph on a drive east from Naples on I-75. Amidst the beautiful views of the everglades grass and pristine wildlife (That we erroneously paved a road across in the 1920s to disrupt the flow of water in the Everglades in order to facilitate automobile movement) we come across the very large and disturbing view of the Bank Atlantic Center and rising TAO Condos, just on the water’s edge (or swamp, whatever). Honestly, whose bright idea was it to build dense population structures in suburbia on the edge of a pristine sanctuary? Its just bad urban planning…

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