The Transportation Corridors Bills

SB 7068 and HB 7113
For Immediate Release

The Transportation Corridors bills would commit the state to spending billions of dollars to build three new tollways that would lead to more congestion, more air pollution, and would take money away from more pressing transportation needs, all in the name of rural economic development. But building new roads is not an effective economic development strategy in the 21st Century. Instead of boosting the economy, these roads will destroy communities, encourage sprawl, and increase regional inequities.

This legislation would result in the biggest expansion of the state highway network since the mid-1950s and is a massive step in the wrong direction for Florida.

Highway expansion is not an effective transportation solution.

  • The new tollways have been billed as a way to relieve congestion and increase regional connectivity, but decades of research show that highway expansions do the opposite. [1] Instead, new highways bring more cars to the road, quickly erasing any congestion relief brought on by the expansion. [2]

  • As an example, in Texas, the state spent nearly $3 billion widening the Katy Freeway to 26-lanes, making it one of the world’s largest. Just three years after construction was complete, 85 percent of commutes took longer than they had before the widening. [3]

Highway expansion means more air pollution and more childhood asthma. [4]

  • It’s clear that the new highways would result in more cars on our roads. More cars on our roads would mean more vehicle emissions and worse air pollution. That would be bad for Florida’s environment and bad for the health of all Floridians, but especially our children.

  • The air near highways often contains elevated levels of harmful pollution. Children directly exposed to traffic pollution develop respiratory problems, including cough, wheezing, runny nose and asthma. People living near highways or highly traveled roads face an increased risk of developing lung cancer, and a greater risk of death from stroke, lung disease and heart disease. [5]

Highway expansion will cost Floridians billions of dollars and take money away from more pressing needs.

  • The bills propose “self-funding” toll roads, but “self-funding” is a misnomer; billions of Florida tax dollars would be spent to build these roadways. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be transferred from the general fund and billions more would be borrowed to complete these projects, resulting in decades of debt service payments. There is no good reason to expect that toll revenues from the new highways would cover these costs [6]-- a comprehensive analysis of travel projections has not even been completed, nor have alternatives been fully considered.

  • In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the bills propose to take from the general fund to pay for these proposed new toll expressways, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) may borrow money to build the proposed new expressways even if FDOT determines that toll revenues will not be enough to cover the will be payments due on this debt.

  • Spending billions on the construction of these highways will take money away from other pressing transportation needs in Florida, including:

    • Local Needs: Local transportation planning organizations have identified unfunded transportation needs with a price tag of $126 billion. [7]

    • Transit Needs: Only 2 percent of Florida commutes to work were made by public transit. [8] To develop and connect its transit networks, Florida requires an additional $1.3 billion investment. Investing in a more connected and accessible network of public transit will be more effective at relieving congestion, reducing pollution, and encouraging economic development than building new highways.

    • Improved and Safer Walking Infrastructure: Florida ranks as the most dangerous state for pedestrians in the nation. [9] Between 2008 and 2017, over 5,400 pedestrians were killed in the state. This is not an accident. Florida sees more pedestrian deaths than any other state because our roads are designed to move cars, not to be safe for all users.

Highway expansion damages communities.

  • The new tollways are supposed to promote rural economic development, but highway expansion does more damage to communities than it does good. Highway construction often forces the relocation of homes and businesses, widens “dead zones” alongside highways, severs street connections for pedestrians and cars, reduces the base of taxable property, and creates noise, pollution and disruptions that degrade quality of life.

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[1] In fact, the phenomenon of “induced demand,” where new highways set off a chain of societal reactions that bring more cars to the road is so predictable that it has been called the “Fundamental Law of Road Congestion.” See, for example, Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner, “The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities,” American Economic Review, DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.6.2616, 2011.
[2] Gideon Weissman and Matt Casale, “Highway Boondoggles 4,” U.S. PIRG Education Fund, June 2018, https://www.click2houston.com/news/houston-commute-times-quickly-increasing_20151123154243235.
[3] Jennifer Reyna, “Houston Commute Times Quickly Increasing,” Click2Houston, February 4 2014.
[4] Annabelle Timsit, “An alarming kids’ health report shows cities must act now on traffic pollution,” Quartz, April 12, 2019, https://qz.com/1592543/what-cities-can-do-to-stop-traffic-pollution-ruining-kids-health/.
[5] Elizabeth Riddlington and Travis Madsen, “Trouble in Air,” U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Spring 2017.   
[6] Toll roads across the country have struggled to raise sufficient revenue. See, for example, the following story about a toll road in Texas in danger of default: Aman Batheja, “Report: SH 130 Toll Road Company in Danger of Default,” Texas Tribune, 19 June 2014, www.texastribune.org/2014/06/19/report-sh-130- toll-road-danger-default/.
[7] Center for Urban Transportation Research, Review of MPO Long Range Transportation Plans and Estimate of Statewide 2035 Metropolitan Area Financial Shortfall, 2013, https://www.mpoac.org/download/research_documents/LRTP_Review2013.pdf 
[8] “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” American Society of Civil Engineers, https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/.
[9]  “Dangerous By Design,” Smart Growth America,  February 2019, https://smartgrowthamerica.org/dangerous-by-design/.