Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Easy Solution to the City's Transportation Mess

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Easy Solution to the City's Transportation Mess

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

Here we are again, back in a transportation pickle.

Many of you probably remember when John Delaney was mayor and the "b" word -- as in billion -- was being used to describe the number of dollars that were needed to meet the city's road-building needs.

Well, we swallowed hard and agreed to tax ourselves by approving the Better Jacksonville Plan with the promise that the $1.5 billion it provided for roadwork would solve our transportation woes.

Now we're finding out that the Better Jacksonville Plan dollars are coming up woefully short.

City officials are estimating that cost overruns on Better Jacksonville Plan transportation projects are now at $99 million. That's likely to keep rising.

Then there's the traffic-clogged Mathews Bridge, a fix of which was at least tangentially promised in the Better Jacksonville Plan. Cost estimates for that work range from a staggering $569 million to $923 million.

And don't forget the push to further widen Butler Boulevard at a cost of $120 million and regional transportation needs that have been pegged at several billion dollars more.

Where is the money going to come from?

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has suggested extending the life of the 6-cent local option gas tax to make up for the $99 million shortfall in Better Jacksonville Plan road projects.

That's a non-starter and here's why.

When the City Council passed the gas tax in 1986, the promise was made that it would expire in 1996.

When Ed Austin was mayor in 1991, he persuaded the council to break that promise and to extend the tax to 2016.

Keeping the tax past then would in fact be a new tax and we all know how Mayor John Peyton feels about new taxes.

During his campaign, he promised he would never support a new tax or a tax increase, and his office said recently he would be against any extension of the gas tax. …

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