Gaetz Announces Transportation Funding, No Toll

Don GaetzSenate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) will be in Pensacola today to announce nearly $1 billion in transportation funding for Northwest Florida.

Locally, the funding will support the nearly $600 million construction of a new bridge connecting Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. This state funding means the bridge will not be a toll bridge.

Senator Gaetz is describing the transportation projects as having “real economic value”—creating jobs and fostering growth. He is expected in Pensacola around 3 p.m.

Here is a press release from Gaetz’s office:

Destin, Fla. – Northwest Florida will receive nearly $1 billion in accelerated transportation funding announced today by Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Gaetz said he was told the initiative constitutes the largest single investment in our area’s transportation infrastructure in state history.

Ten projects, one starting as soon as next month, will improve the region’s ports, roadways, bridges and rail transportation.  Gaetz said the impact of the historic investments will be to help the private sector create more and better jobs.

“Hundreds of jobs will be created during the engineering and construction of these projects,” Gaetz explained.  “But the real economic value is in building the arteries that get products to and from market.  A burst of construction getting that infrastructure in place will help our communities attract and keep growing businesses that need skilled workers for decades to come.”

Gaetz was supported in a series of meetings today with business and civic leaders in Panama City, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola by Senators Bill Montford and Greg Evers, Speaker pro tempore Marti Coley, and Representatives Matt Gaetz, Clay Ingram, Clay Ford, Doug Broxson and Jimmy Patronis.

Also attending were state Assistant Secretary of Transportation Brian Blanchard and District 3 Transportation Secretary Tommy Barfield.

The largest single project is the replacement of the Three Mile Bridge on Highway 98 connecting Gulf Breeze and Pensacola.  The bridge will cost $595,600 to build.  Construction will begin in two years following acquisition of right of way and environmental permits.

The Senate President emphasized that the new bridge will not be a toll bridge but will be paid for entirely by state transportation funds.

Northwest Florida’s three ports – Pensacola, Panama City and Port St. Joe – will all receive improvements totaling $14.5 million.  Gaetz praised Montford (D-Tallahassee) for his persistence and success in championing port funding as a way to help manufacturing and agriculture.  Montford is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In Okaloosa County, FDOT has committed to working with the Legislature to move up the expansion and improvement of State Road 123 from 2018 to 2015. The project’s estimated cost is $20.6 million.

Santa Rosa County will receive $23.9 million in state funds to add two lanes to the existing two lane State Road 87 from Eglin AFB’s boundary to two miles south of the Yellow River.

In addition to the Three Mile Bridge and port investments, Escambia County will see widening of US 29 from four to six lanes from Nine Mile Road to I-10.  The interchange at Nine Mile Road will be replaced with a “tight urban diamond” and existing ramps will be converted to service roads.  Construction is planned for 2016 at a cost of $50.8 million.

A new interchange will be constructed in two years at the intersection of Highway 98 and 23rd Street in Panama City with costs pegged at $85 million.

State Road 79 from south of Vernon to Bonifay through both Washington and Holmes counties will be widened from the current two-lane rural roadway to a four-lane divided highway.  The construction contract will be executed next month with completion scheduled for 2017 at a cost of $139 million.

Also announced was the multi-laning of State Road 77 from the Bay County line north to I-10.  The 23 mile stretch will cost $44.9 million.

“This aggressive initiative is possible because we have a jobs champion in Governor Rick Scott,” President Gaetz emphasized.  “He has been a solid partner in finding the funds and moving Northwest Florida’s interests forward.”