FDOT defers projects in five-year plan due to revenue cuts

Florida Department of Transportation presented its five-year work program for fiscal years 2021-2025 at Forward Pinellas’ Oct. 9 meeting.

CLEARWATER — Forward Pinellas Board members got a look at Florida Department of Transportation’s tentative five-year work program Oct. 9, covering local projects funded from July 1, 2020-June 30, 2025.

The work program is a five-year plan that includes public transit, seaport, airport and rail projects. It is comprised of transportation planning, intelligent transportation, highway design, right of way acquisition and construction activities.

Funding for projects in year one (fiscal year 2021) will be included in the state’s proposed budget pending legislative and the governor’s approval. Years two-five are commitments, which can be used for production and financial planning purposes; however, they are subject to change.

The work program includes projects managed by FDOT and locally managed projects that have FDOT involvement. The tentative program includes projects not previously included in the program plus new phases of existing projects.

Funding for projects in Pinellas over the five years totals $891 million. It includes $7.67 million for MPO planning, $111.57 million for transit, $36 million for aviation, $624 million for projects that increase road capacity, $74 million for road resurfacing, $5.95 million for traffic operations, $5.26 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and $5.46 million for Complete Streets projects.

The $111.57 million allocated for transit is split into $53 million for operations and $58 million for capital.

Deferred roadway projects

Several Forward Pinellas Board members expressed concern about the deferment of projects on U.S. 19 in the Palm Harbor area, including the following:

• Right of way acquisition for a new interchange on U.S. 19/State Road 55 from north of County Road 95 to south of Pine Ridge Way south deferred from FY 2021 to FY 2026 and construction deferred from FY 2025 to FY 2028.

• Right of way acquisition for a project to add lanes and reconstruction on U.S. 19/State Road 55 from north of Nebraska Avenue to south of Timberlane Road deferred from FY 2022 to FY 2026.

• Right of way acquisition for a project to add lane and reconstruction on U.S. 19/State Road 55 south of Timberlane Road to south of Lake Street deferred from FY 2023 to FY 2027.

FDOT District Seven Secretary David Gwynn said Pinellas wasn’t the only county “feeling the pain” from having projects delayed. He explained that the deferments were the result of new numbers from the state Revenue Estimating Conference, which makes forecasts every six months.

Statewide, revenue projections for transportation funds for the next five years were reduced by $225 million, he said, due to the likelihood of less fuel consumption and signs of an economic slowdown. He said the conference predicted a reduction in tourism, use of fewer rental cars and fewer purchases of new cars. In addition, further lessening in proceeds from the fuel tax is expected due to increased use of electric cars and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Another issue is the cost of repaving. FDOT is required to preserve existing roadways and by state law must keep at least 80% at an acceptable level.

“Pavement is failing sooner than we thought,” he said, adding that the problem was being caused by more trucks (18-wheelers) on the road and more traffic in general.

He said that because of the reduction in projected revenue, project timelines had to be changed.

“We have to balance projects with revenues each year,” he said.

FDOT does that by moving projects in and out of the work program. FDOT shies away from rescheduling high dollar projects because it is harder to budget for them in the future, Gwynn said.

“We want to fund them all, but we can’t,” he said, adding that if the Revenue Estimating Conference changes projections, projects would be added back to the schedule.

He said previous projections had shown estimates that had “flattened out.”

“But the last six months, there’s been a more pessimistic outlook,” he said.

Roadway projects

Among the roadway projects on the list is Forest Lakes Boulevard from State Road 580 to State Road 584/Tampa Road. Preliminary engineering design of work to add lanes and rehabilitate the pavement is slated for FY 2023 with construction added in FY 2025.

Other projects include:

• Right of way acquisition for a roundabout on Alt. U.S. 19/State Road 595 and Palm Harbor Boulevard funded in FY 2021 with construction in FY 2022.

• Right of way acquisition for a project to add lanes and reconstruction of I-275/State Road 93 from 54th Avenue South to south of Roosevelt Boulevard advanced from FY 2023 to FY 2021 with construction deferred from FY 2024 to FY 2025.

• Construction of an intersection improvement project on Tarpon Avenue from South Huey Avenue to U.S. 19 added in FY 2022.

• Construction of an urban corridor improvement project on 22nd Street South from 11th Avenue South to Fifth Avenue South is intended to help reduce crashes has construction slated for FY 2025.

Other projects

Several resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation projects were included with preliminary engineering slated for FY 2021 and construction in FY 2023, including the following:

• Road 590 from northeast of Leonard Drive to Delaware.

• State Road 580 from Shore Boulevard to Tampa Road.

• State Road 693/Pasadena Avenue/66th Street North from Park Street to North Tyrone Avenue.

• U.S. 19A/State Road 595 from the south end of Long Bayou Bridge to Hoover Boulevard/95th Street North.

• State Road 694 from east of Grand Avenue/South Frontage Road to east of State Road 93/I-275.

• State Road 699/Gulf Boulevard from north of 183rd Terrace West to north of 192nd Avenue.

• I-275/State Road 93 from the north end of the Skyway Bridge to north of Maximo Point Bridges.

• I-175/State Road 594 from East 16th Street South to Fourth Street South.

• I-375/State Road 592 from I-275 to State Road 595/Fourth Avenue North.

One additional pavement preservation project is slated on I-275/State Road 93 from 54th Avenue South to Fifth Avenue South with construction planned in FY 2023.

Two bridge replacement projects are in the work program, including the one on 40th Avenue Northeast over Placido Bayou with construction advanced to FY 2020. The bridge at Ridgemoor Boulevard and Brooker Creek has preliminary engineering scheduled in FY 2023 and construction in FY 2025.

Public hearings

An online public hearing on the work program is scheduled from Oct. 28-Nov. 1 at www.D7wpph.com with an open house at District 7’s headquarters, 11201 N. McKinley Drive in Tampa, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Public comments will be due on Nov. 11. MPO objections are due by Nov. 18.

The work program will be made available to state legislatures for review by January with adoption of the program coming on July 1, 2020.

For more information and to view the adopted plan, visit www.D7wpph.com.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.