Stephanie Kopelousos, the Florida Secretary of Transportation, today challenged the private sector to look beyond highway projects and help her create an “intermodal” transportation system for the state that will link up its highways, ports and railroads into one cohesive network.
“Where we need your help is [in] looking at our strategic intermodal system,” she told the audience of participants at the Infrastructure Investor: Southeast forum in Miami. The strategic intermodal system, she said, is the network of ports, airports and rail projects “that move the most people in our state.”
The Florida Department of Transportation has about $8 billion of investments planned for strategic intermodal capacity in its $33.3 billion, 2010 to 2015 work plan. Of that $6.4 billion will go toward highway capacity. And highway projects overall remain “most visible” in what the department does, Kopelousos said, though she hopes investors will not ignore other transportation sectors.
“Please just don’t look at the highway side,” Kopelousos said. “We have 14 deepwater ports, so I challenge you to look at that.”
Other upcoming investment opportunities include Florida’s high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, which earlier this year was awarded a $1.25 billion grant from the US Department of Transportation’s high speed rail stimulus money.
“We’ve just been released about $66 million to purchase the rest of the land were going to need for the project,” she said, adding that “the real excitement” will be when the high-speed rail line ultimately reached Miami, the state’s most populous city.
Kopelousos also pointed to the First Coast Outer Beltway, a road that will encircle the port city of Jacksonville in the state’s north-east, as another public-private partnership that will be coming to market soon.
But like all other new capacity projects Florida is likely to develop, the First Coast Outer Beltway will proceed as a toll road.
“That’s our future. You’re not going to see a new project without seeing tolls on it. We don’t have the money,” Kopelousos said.