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Rick Scott Seeks to Drive Road, Seaport, Airport Upgrades in Second Term

August 17, 2014 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott is hyping a plan to reinforce the state's roads, ports and airports as he campaigns across Florida this week.

The proposal, which also pushes safety enhancements for bicyclists while highlighting spending on transit since Scott has been in office, is the latest part of the governor's re-election platform.

"I am committed to keeping Florida moving by creating strategic investment opportunities to expand our state's transportation system," Scott, who appeared Monday in Jacksonville, said in a prepared statement.

The plan focuses heavily on expanding parts of the existing transit infrastructure by affirming support for the state Department of Transportation's $41 billion 5-year work program.

Specific projects that could be undertaken would still need to be worked out annually with the Legislature if Scott is re-elected, a campaign spokeswoman said.

Scott, who has conducted similar tours for other parts of his platform, has titled this week's campaign effort "Lets Keep Florida Moving."

Additional stops are planned in Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Miami, Panama City and Tampa.

The plan doesn't address any proposals for passenger or freight rail transportation, which has become a hot topic in parts of the state during this year's elections.

"The governor right now is pointing out places where investments can be made because the governor is all about jobs," said campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.

Along the Space and Treasure coasts, opposition has been growing to the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger service.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that Scott, who in 2011 rejected federal funding for high-speed rail across 84 miles of Central Florida, expressed support for the Coral Gables-based All Aboard Florida. However, the governor's office has also tried to distance Scott from All Aboard Florida, which is a division of Florida East Coast Industries.

The Florida Democratic Party called Scott's transit plan "disingenuous" and "misleading."

"Rick Scott put politics over good policy when he rejected funding for high-speed rail," the Florida Democratic Party said in a statement.

The Democratic Party also noted that Scott's vision for transportation has turned since he took office, as the governor's first budget offered a more tea-party friendly proposal to cut transportation funding by $441.5 million.

Scott's campaign tour comes after the governor's office announced Thursday that six large road projects, at a combined cost of $806.7 million, have been formally moved to the front of the state's 5-year work program.

The campaign stops this week are being set up in regions impacted by each of those advanced road projects.

Along with $25 billion over the next five years to maintain and add extra lanes to existing roads and $325 million for aviation improvements, the campaign proposal touts $1 billion for the state's seaports.

The port total includes funding approved the past 4 years, Schutz said.

Scott announced in May that he wanted to spend $300 million during a second term for upgrades at most of the state's 15 seaports.

The state has spent $582 million the past three years on improvements at Florida's seaports, with an eye on establishing Florida as a global trade crossroad. An additional $139 million is included in the current fiscal year budget for more than 20 port projects across the state.

The plan also promises to expand Floridas space industry, which recently failed to sway billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk to set up the world's first private launch facility in the Sunshine State, and to ensure a safer environment for bicyclists.

In June, Scott signed the state's $70 billion budget, which included $15 million for work on a coast-to-coast bicycle and pedestrian trail across Central Florida that is backed by incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

Scott vetoed a $50 million allocation for the coast-to-coast trail a year earlier.

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