Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Budget Could Hurt Clay Road Project; He Wants to Eliminate Source of State Funding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Budget Could Hurt Clay Road Project; He Wants to Eliminate Source of State Funding

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Times-Union staff writer

********************CORRECTION January 28, 2003

Gov. Jeb Bush has proposed to spend $5.3 billion for transportation in his 2003-04 budget. Because of a reporter's error, that figure was wrong in a story on Page B-2 Sunday.

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Getting money to build the proposed Cleveland Connector was already an uphill battle for Clay County commissioners.

Gov. Jeb Bush's proposed budget for 2003-04 will make it a little tougher.

Bush wants to eliminate the $100 million Transportation Outreach Program, which the Legislature has tapped for projects that didn't make it into the state Department of Transportation's multibillion budget.

Last year, Clay County was able to win $825,000 to start the planning study that would be the first step toward building the Cleveland Connector, linking Blanding Boulevard and Branan Field-Chaffee road.

This year, Clay County officials were hoping to take another shot at funding for the road, which bears a price tag of $27 million.

If the Legislature agrees with Bush and drops the TOP program, it will wipe out one of the few sources of funding for Cleveland Connector, said Clay County Commissioner Pat McGovern. However, he quickly added that TOP by itself could never provide all the money.

"I hate to see anything go away that helps Clay County's transportation, but that really wasn't the answer to our problems," McGovern said. "It's like the airlines. Instead of serving you a meal, they give you a bag of peanuts and it really doesn't fill you up."

Bush's budget proposes $5.3 million for the transportation department, an increase of almost 2 percent compared to the current spending level. Bush would keep on track all the big-ticket projects in Northeast Florida, such as the Florida 9A beltway being built in the Southside, said Assistant Transportation Department Secretary Ken Morefield.

But Bush would take $200 million from the state's transportation trust fund to make ends meet in the rest of the state budget. To offset that, the transportation department is eliminating spending that has benefitted smaller projects. …

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