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Transportation in the 21st Century/NOV 2019

Dean Johnson  | Published on 11/14/2019

If only we had enough money -- maybe like all the funding that’s going to a certain wall.

We’re talking about Central Florida transportation needs – discussed in Wednesday’s LWVOC Hot Topics meeting by Mayors Buddy Dyer (Orlando) and Jerry Demings (Orange County) – and the considerable moola we would need to expand Lynx bus service and the SunRail commuter train.

A key hitch since the beginning of time has been that there is no dedicated funding source for the area’s transit needs. That’s why Mayor Demings has proposed (and Mayor Dyer has endorsed) a 1-cent sales tax increase whose proceeds would go to transportation. Demings said that would add an estimated $600 million to the coffers per year.

That bundle of revenue could add more buses (Lynx has 300 now and the goal is to double that) and more routes; improve brick streets and other infrastructure; tackle pedestrian safety (our area is No. 1 in the country for being dangerous for pedestrians); add more trails and bike lanes; fund SunRail once state funding dries up in 2021; decrease traffic fatalities (Dyer spoke about the Vision O Plan, whose goal is zero traffic fatalities by 2040 and said that deaths were studied in each city commission district so as to focus on the worst corridors).

The plan is for voters to consider the 1-cent sales tax increase on the 2020 ballot. Demings says “listening sessions” are already being held with groups of citizens so transit planners can ferret out priorities and develop a master plan for the county and all of its cities as well as address innovations for the future of an area that is expected to have 5.2 millions residents by 2030. As program moderator Racquel Asa of WFTV said, there are 1,500 people moving here every WEEK.

Another advantage of the dedicated funding for transportation is that other tax dollars could address such other Central Florida problems as affordable housing, social services and homelessness.

Demings said that polls show public approval for the sales tax increase. “We’ll have to really sell it to the community and make them see how it will help them,” he said.