Op-Ed

Florida Influencers: Fix everything now

We asked our 50 Influencers about Florida’s infrastructure needs, particularly how to deal with transportation issues, including mass transit and the possibility of high speed rail.

Here’s a sampling of their responses:

“Create and promote dense special economic zones near mass transportation hubs that allow for the absence of a car. Rather than giving tax breaks for companies, create tax incentive programs for small businesses that are dedicated to sustainability, local economic impact and fostering an urban core that is aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, hold developers to higher standards for positive economic impact in the neighborhoods in which they build.’’

Frankin Sirmans,

director, Pérez Art

Museum Miami

“The challenge for rail is not the cost of building the system. Many in private sector are willing to significantly contribute to that. Challenge is in covering the operating expenses and through whose budget. It will only work if federal, state and local subsidies of operating expenses are in place.

Al Cardenas, director,

senior partner,

Squire Patton Boggs

“Mass transportation, especially in highly-congested cities like Miami, is critical to the local economy. In the case of Miami-Dade County with a critical shortage of affordable housing, a light-rail system to Homestead would provide immediate relief to the housing-stressed workers in Miami since Homestead/Florida City home prices are half those in the more congested areas up north. Adding WiFi to convenient and affordable light-rail transit would be a very attractive to the younger workers and could potentially "kill two birds with one stone" — less road congestion and a significant increase in affordable housing.’’

Brian Keeley,

president

and CEO, Baptist

Health South Florida

“Florida should equalize its gasoline taxes for a start. We are past the place where a political boundary should differentiate the motor fuel tax rate. Doing so would not only increase the revenue from the tax difference, but because the rate would be equal government collection efficiencies should be gained making more revenues available for infrastructure needs. We also need to strive to make funding for infrastructure of alternative modes of transportation self-sufficient based on user-based fees and taxes.’’

David Mica, executive

director, Florida Petroleum Council

“Florida’s geography is particularly well- suited for a high -speed rail system, which can use pre-existing railroad lines and create additional lines at reasonable expense. European countries have long enjoyed rail systems that are reliable and inexpensive to use. We need to follow suit.’’

Steve Zack, partner,

Boies Schiller Flexner

“Florida infrastructure has deteriorated badly over the last decades. Roads were not built to accommodate the growing urban population, especially in the urban centers. We should concentrate in spending the places where we want to channel the population growth: center of cities and around mass transit nodes. This will lead to greater sustainability and less waste of both physical and Human Resources. I am not so concerned with transport between cities but more concerned with the daily movement within cities.

Jorge Pérez, chairman

and CEO, Related Group

“Currently, the solutions available to Florida to increase infrastructure and transportation funding generally are higher taxes or and increase use of user fees. The discussion becomes who pays for the improvement. Sales tax-related solutions have always been unpopular. Instead, we may consider focus on expanding our managed lane network and toll additional roads.

For freight-related infrastructure improvement, the freight-haulers have in other places agreed to freight-specific surcharges to improve road and rail infrastructure.’’

Margaret Lezcano,

managing director, UBS

“A mix of solutions right for Florida includes incremental investments to adapt failing infrastructure and create new resilient and sustainable infrastructure.

These projects can provides flexible, sustainable and affordable services that meet multiple quality of life priorities of our diverse population like mass transit, sustainable energy, quality drinking water, and projects that enhance use of natural infrastructure and minimize flood and hurricane risks across the state.’’

Tiffany Troxler, director of science, Sea Level Solutions Center, FIU

“Transit must become a priority of the state because multi-modal transit makes our communities more competitive for recruiting talent, which in turn, makes the state more competitive for company recruitment and jobs.

As we build toll roads, the state should insure that the net proceeds from these tolls go towards transit solutions to serve and connect our growing communities.

The state in coordination with the local governments should protect transit lanes and dedicated corridors to assure their use for transit and emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.”

Rhea Law, chair,

Florida offices,

Buchanan, Ingersoll

& Rooney

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