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- 2014 - January - 14th -
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Gov. Rick Scott pledged $8.8 billion for the state’s transportation infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year budget. Blount Island marine terminal would get $2.6 million. Scott made the announcement Monday during a visit to the Port of Jacksonville. Also pictured at left are Herschel Vinyard, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, and Cynthia Bioteau, president of Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Photo by Carole Hawkins
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Blount Island would get slice of seaport money

By Carole Hawkins, Contributing Writer

What a difference a budget surplus makes.

Gov. Rick Scott pledged to spend a record $8.8 billion on Florida transportation infrastructure next fiscal year in a budget that also proposes $500 million in tax cuts and fee reductions. The projected state surplus is $1.2 million.

Up from $8.6 billion last year, Scott's infrastructure spending would fully fund the Florida Department of Transportation's Work Program and includes $138.9 million for seaport improvements.

Statewide, the proposed expenditures for transportation infrastructure include:

• $3.8 billion for highway construction projects

• $192 million for bridge improvements

• $134 million for safety initiatives

• $90 million for Everglades restoration

Of the seaport money, $2.6 million would go to Jacksonville's Blount Island marine terminal, which is being revamped to handle larger cargo ships in anticipation of Jacksonville's shipping channel being deepened to 47 feet.

"Global companies depend on efficient infrastructure systems," Scott said during a visit Monday to the Port of Jacksonville. "And Florida will only continue to attract global companies by remaining a leader in infrastructure."

The Department of Transportation's Work Program funds road, bridges and seaport construction.

Ports funding has been a priority for Scott since taking office, with more than $640 million directed toward expanding the state's 15 seaports since 2011, according to The News Service of Florida.

The focus, backed by state business groups, has been to make Florida a global shipping hub as the widening of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in 2015.

Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad described this year's budget as historic and said Florida's ramp-up in transportation spending in recent years has primarily been directed toward improving freight mobility in a growing global economy.

Since 2011, $642 million has been invested for ongoing port projects across the state, he said. The U.S. Chamber Foundation last year ranked Florida's infrastructure the best in the country. Capital spending on ports in Florida last year surpassed that of New York.

"This spending enhances Florida's ability to be a global hub for trade and commerce," Prasad said. "It is not a matter of if, but when Florida becomes the trade gateway to America."

The $200 million increase in DOT's overall capital budget is paid for by organic revenue growth, Prasad said. Gas tax receipts are up, as is income from dock stamps collected on home sales.

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