Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Transport Authority Backed; County Advisory Commission's Report Recommends Creating One for Projects

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Transport Authority Backed; County Advisory Commission's Report Recommends Creating One for Projects

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

After a year of study, the Clay County Transportation Advisory Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a draft report recommending an authority be created to plan and manage future transportation projects.

The project list for such an authority could include the proposed outer beltway, road widening and expansion, bike paths, St. Johns River water taxi service and commuter rail, the report said.

Increased commuting time and shrinking state and federal transportation funding for Clay County "indicate the need for local-level strategic transportation planning and innovative funding strategies, elements that can be effectively pursued by a single-focus county . . . authority," it said.

"Given the high stakes for the quality of life and economic development of the county, the [transportation panel] believes that the myriad of duties handled by the [County Commission] will always tend to distract them from the project at hand," the report said. "An authority is better suited to work solely toward meeting the county's future transportation needs."

The report, which will be formally presented to the County Commission Tuesday, lists potential funding sources for the authority and its potential projects, such as sales tax and gas tax revenues, but does not actually request funding. The authority itself would have no taxing power on its own but would study funding options and make recommendations to the County Commission, which would have the final say, the report said.

The report asks the County Commission to seek legislative approval for the authority during the 2006 legislative session, which began this week and ends in May.

Although the deadline for submitting new bills was Tuesday, a County Commission-supported resolution that treads no new legal ground could still get into the hopper, said John Tabor, chairman of the transportation panel.

"There is a small window of opportunity [this year]," he said.

The resolution could state that, even with legislative approval, the authority cannot be activated until the County Commission holds public hearings and votes a second time, Tabor said. …

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