Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced his $7 billion Moving Florida Forward legislation initiative that would expedite 20 infrastructure projects across the state.
The proposal still needs to pass the state House and Senate during the upcoming legislative session. If approved, Marion County residents would see a $479 million construction investment on around 29 miles of I-75 for auxiliary lanes.
The project runs from State Road 326 just north of Ocala, Exit 358, to State Road 44 at Wildwood, Exit 329.
State Sen. Keith Perry represents Marion County and he said it’s not surprising to anyone who drives the interstate that improvements are needed.
“Minor accidents cause major problems,” Perry, a Republican, said in a phone interview. “I think it’s a solution, but ‘temporary’ might be the best word.”
Perry said the state still needs to look at more long-term options.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) studied turnpike expansion options through Marion and Levy counties. A conglomerate of nonprofits and citizens spoke against the turnpike expansion last year. The Levy County Board of County Commissioners also asked the state to drop the expansion plans.
“I’m gonna look back up there about what DOT’s plans are, and let’s review through all of their meetings, their proposals, and then have some long-term solutions to the transportation needs of the state,” Perry said.
Perry said the state can’t afford to only run one main road north and south—accidents cause traffic jams and congestion clogs evacuations. He said the state also can’t afford to decide on the turnpike project based on just letters from opposing constituents.
Along with the I-75 lane expansion in Marion County, the Moving Florida Forward plan includes three projects — four on I-4 between Tampa and Orlando, and more Central and South Florida projects.
The Marion County expansion has the fifth-largest price tag on the 20-project list.
According to a press release, $4 billion of the funds will come from general fund surpluses. FDOT will provide the other $3 billion over four years through “innovative financing tools, contracting, and proposed policies.”
The press release said Florida is expected to grow by 600 per day over the next 30 years.
Find the full proposal here.
Representatives will begin working through committees leading up to the 2023 legislative session.
Starting this week, Perry said he’ll begin moving line by line through the governor’s recommendations in the Appropriations Committee on Education to see where they match.