How can Florida have the best transportation system in the nation? Last summer I unveiled Florida’s Transportation Vision for the 21st Century — our state’s roadmap for the future. This plan recognized that for our state to maintain its competitive edge in the nation’s economy, we must not only maintain our existing system at the highest levels, but we must also have a transportation network to address our growing needs for many decades to come.
To further this vision, the state Department of Transportation began a “Future Corridors” initiative which will include existing transportation improvements, as well as new transportation corridors to accommodate highways where feasible and appropriate.
As we emerge from the recession, Florida is expected to regain its position as one of the nation’s fastest growing states. Population, visitors and freight tonnage are projected to grow 35 percent or more between 2010 and 2040.
This means our transportation system will need to move more people and freight over the next several decades to support our economic growth and quality of life. Clearly, our existing highway system will not be able to keep up with this increase in demand.
The core of our approach is to get the most we can from our existing highway corridors, which are the backbone of our economy. Our highly successful managed lanes project called 95 Express in South Florida benefits all users.
It makes I-95 a better experience for drivers, residents, and transit users alike by creating more travel options and encouraging the use of ridesharing and transit alternatives.
We want to expand managed lanes in Florida, so our travelers in other areas of the state can see those same benefits.
Our transportation corridors will need to accommodate not just automobiles, but rail facilities, gas and electric transmission lines, fiber optics and other technologies to minimize the impact on adjacent lands. We may need better connections between some regions, such as Tampa Bay to Jacksonville or between Southeast Florida and Central Florida.
FDOT is engaging all its stakeholders by working with our state agency partners such as the Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to coordinate our plans and determine what critical statewide assets need to be protected.
We are also reaching out to major landowners in the state to understand their plans and visions for growth in the future. In addition, we are talking to environmental organizations, business organizations, gas and electric utilities, local governments, and land use advocates to better understand how they envision the future of Florida. It is a long-term view — a multi-tiered approach to planning our next steps.
We can accomplish this vision only if we work together to meet our transportation challenges by meeting our future mobility needs and supporting appropriate development patterns while also protecting our fragile environmental assets. Transportation doesn’t drive growth, but when growth happens, we need to be there with the transportation infrastructure to support it. We invite the input of all Floridians as we continue to develop our transportation vision
Ananth Prasad is secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.