‘Alligator Alley’ not a priority for Florida

In an interview with InfrastructureInvestor, Florida Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Kopelousos said she hopes to deliver instead a PPP for Jacksonville’s First Coast Outer Beltway and focus on the state's application for $2.6bn in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail.

Fresh from closing the $903 million Port of Miami Tunnel Project, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is moving on to other priority projects, which include a new beltway for the city of Jacksonville and a high-speed rail network for the state.

But one high-profile project that failed to reach completion – a 50-year lease of a highway in Southern Florida known as the “Alligator Alley” – is no longer a priority.

Stephanie
Kopelousos

“I think we certainly were disappointed we didn’t get any proposals on that project,” Stephanie Kopelousos, the Florida Secretary of Transportation, told InfrastructureInvestor.

Six bidding groups originally signaled interest in the project. But in May, FDOT did not receive any compliant bids and the state missed out on netting an upfront payment for leasing the highway to a private concessionaire. Shortly thereafter, market speculation was that the state might quickly move to re-bid the project.

“At this point, are we looking to put that back out there? Probably not right now. I think our next project is going to really be focused on delivering the First Coast Outer Beltway in Jacksonville,” Kopelousos added.

I think our next project is going to really be focused on delivering the First Coast Outer Beltway in Jacksonville

Stephanie Kopelousos


The beltway is a proposed 46.5 mile-long four-lane toll road that would run north-south along the southwest side of Jacksonville, the most populous city in the fast-growing state. FDOT has been pursuing the project as a public-private partnership since at least 2007. A request for qualifications for companies to fund the design, construction and operation of the beltway was withdrawn in June and a new timeline for the delivery of the project is yet to be determined, according to the project’s website.

Kopelousos said she is also focusing on delivering Florida’s ambitions for a high-speed rail network. Florida was among the 24 states that applied for the Federal Railroad Administration’s $8 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects.

The state requested $2.6 billion to design, build, maintain and operate a high-speed rail system between the cities of Tampa and Orlando. Eventually, Florida hopes to have a high-speed rail corridor between Orlando, located in central Florida, Tampa on the west coast, and Miami in the state's southeast.

Kopelousos is also looking to use other federal stimulus dollars to deliver projects like the Crosstown Connector in Tampa, which will connect two busy roads in the region and, like the soon-to-be-built Port of Miami Tunnel, get trucks out of the downtown area and put them on the interstate highway.

“There’s just so many things like that that need to be accomplished here,” Kopelousos said, adding that the state just doesn’t have a choice but to rely on tools like PPPs to bring projects to fruition.

Meridiam has been able to deliver and it's become a good partnership

Stephanie Kopelousos



Turning to her state’s newest PPP – the Port of Miami Tunnel – Kopelousos had kind words for the US Department of Transportation, European infrastructure investor Meridiam and other partners who made that project possible.

“One of the things that showed how important PPPs are is that even in this market, with the right team, we were able to deliver this project,” she said.

“Meridiam has been able to deliver and it’s become a good partnership,” she added.