A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
(REGIONAL) TRANSPORTATION FORUM
SEPTEMBER 30, 2003
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, September 30, 2003, at 9:00 a.m., in the Magnolia Room, Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center, Lake Sumter Community College, Leesburg, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Debbie Stivender, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; Jennifer Hill; and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager and Judy Whaley, Deputy Clerk.
Commissioner Cadwell called the meeting to order and expressed appreciation, on behalf of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, to those in attendance. He stated that this Board will aggressively try to move Lake County into the 21st century in regards to transportation. Lake County is important because it borders so many other counties in the region. He stated that Lake County desires to be a partner through the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) alliance. He then recognized the elected city officials and the Lake County School Board members who were in attendance. He also expressed his personal appreciation to Mr. Tom Berry, Past Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation, for attending the Forum.
Mr. David Gwynn, Principal, TEI Engineers & Planners, acting as facilitator of the Forum, gave a PowerPoint presentation (which is included in the backup material) which included the following:
• Purpose of Forum. Bring together transportation partners from the adjoining regions of Lake County, elected officials, community leaders, and stake holders to address the 2025 Transportation Vision for Lake County’s Transportation Long-Range Plan.
• Population Growth. In 1980, 104,870 people. In 2000, 210,527 people. By 2020, estimated to be more than 320,000 people.
• Employment Growth. In 2000, 89,270 jobs. By 2020, estimates are 115,000 jobs.
• Lake County “Report Card.” Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). VMT below adopted Level of Service. Sidewalks on major roadways. Bicycle facilities.
• Focus of 2025 Transportation Vision.
Ms. Carolyn Ismart, District Director of Planning & Public Transportation for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5, spoke to the group about Lake County projects the FDOT has in its Work Program and gave a brief overview of how the FDOT’s Work Program is developed. The Work Program, basically, is the list of all of the projects that the FDOT plans to develop, implement and fund over a five-year period. It lists the projects by phases and shows the dollar amount that is associated with each of those projects. Each year, the Executive Committee reviews the Work Program and looks at funding levels for maintenance, right of way, capacity projects and for the Florida intrastate highway system, making adjustments as they deem necessary. The FDOT is trying to keep the Work Program intact and stable. Ms. Ismart stated that funds are limited and are budget constrained and are category specific. An important factor in programming is that, by law, 50% of the funds that are available to fund capacity projects are to be set aside to be spent on Florida’s intrastate highway system which includes all of the interstates. She stated that there are four MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) in District 5 and the fifth MPO will be added next year. Ultimately, the legislature must approve and provide the funding for the Work Program. She referred to a map of US 441 Projects (which is included in the backup material) and discussed several of those projects. Ms. Ismart then referred to a map of US 27/SR 25 Lake County FIHS (Florida Intrastate Highway System) Capacity Projects (a copy of the map is included in the backup material) and discussed those projects. The FIHS dollars are programmed on a statewide basis and that plan goes out to the year 2025. Ms. Ismart announced that the public hearing for Lake County projects, held in conjunction with the METROPLAN Orlando public hearing, is scheduled for December 11, 2003.
Ms. Nancy Clements, Director of Planning and Production for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, a unit of the Florida Department of Transportation, gave a PowerPoint presentation (a copy is included in the backup material) on the background of toll roads, the Enterprise activities, local projects and the 5-year strategic plan of the Turnpike. She stated that Florida’s Turnpike became Turnpike Enterprise last year and her presentation included the following:
• Why Are Toll Roads Important? Florida has a $29 billion shortfall for transportation needs. Trip delay has been increasing by 6% per year while lane miles are being added at less than 1%. Toll roads account for 79% of new intrastate highways built in Florida since 1991.
• Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise System. Currently 449 miles. The Turnpike receives no state gas tax or federal tax revenue.
• Enterprise Activities. Can a toll entity run like a business, keeping the public sector motive while trying private sector methods?
• SunPass Challenge Initiative. Transponder owners were stuck behind cash payers. By December 2004 plan to double the number of lanes and double participation to 50%. Almost 900,000 transponders have been sold at an average of 50,000 per quarter. As of July 2003, 39% of toll revenue was collected through electronic methods.
• SunPass Retail Sales. Transponders now sold through 600 Eckerd Stores across the state. If trends continue, 100,000 transponders per quarter will be sold.
• Business Development Plan. Has ability to build hotel or office space within the right of way. Planning a new gateway service plaza in Wildwood with hotel space, shopping and food courts. Plans to turn the Okahumpka service plaza into a full truck stop.
• Clermont/Winter Garden Interchange, MP 272. Will be a 2-lane off ramp next year.
• CR 470 Interchange, MP 296. Should be open in the summer of 2005.
• Central Florida Improvements. Five-year work program. Widening from 4 to 8 lanes from Osceola Parkway to SR 50 (Clermont). Western Beltway, 4 lanes.
• Lake County Access Study. Potential new interchange 6 miles north of SR 50 exit.
• Five-Year Strategic Plan - includes the following:
• Transform Sawgrass Expressway into Highway of the Future. With technologies learned on this prototype, all-electronic format highways will be used on the rest of the system.
• Deploy Xpress lanes in urban interstate and Turnpike segments throughout the State. General use lanes on the exterior and tolled express lanes on the interior.
• Frequently Asked Questions. (1) Why do Turnpike Toll Plazas have gates? Toll enforcement and safety. (2) What happens if I don’t have a SunPass account, or my transponder, and accidentally drive through a SunPass-Only lane? If, after checking the license plate, there is an account, it will be charged. If you have no SunPass, you will get a warning after the third time and, ultimately, can have drivers license suspended. (3) Can I use my transponder for parking and other services? In the future, options like parking at airports will be available.
In response to an audience question regarding the Turnpike’s dependence on the passage of Orange County’s 20/20 tax initiative, Ms. Clements responded that she believes the Turnpike is a partner whether the initiative passes or not. If it does not pass, the project may be delayed.
Mr. Gwynn recognized Mr. Jim Ely, Executive Director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, who was in the audience. He then introduced the next speaker, Mr. Stephen Pustelnyk.
Mr. Steve Pustelnyk, Transportation Liaison, Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA), gave a PowerPoint presentation (a copy of which is in the backup material) on OOCEA Programs and Planned Improvement for the Region. His presentation included the following:
• Overview. The Expressway Authority, a government agency, was created in 1963, mainly for construction of the Bee Line between Martin-Marietta and the space coast in Brevard County. A state agency with independent authority to operate, predominately, in Orange County but with the ability to work outside Orange County with concurrence with other counties or cities. It is a modern government agency, almost entirely privatized with private contractors.
• Projects. The first project, the 21-mile Bee Line, cost $7 million. The latest project, opened in 2002, was a 3.5 mile link of SR 429.
• E-PASS. First in state to deploy electronic toll collections. Currently have 420,000 active transponders and, combined with the Turnpike SunPass system, the total is more than 1,000,000 statewide. 65% of customers pay with E-PASS at peak hours.
• Funding Trends. The federal share of Florida’s transportation revenue is projected to shrink to less than 28%. Florida’s Intrastate Highway System has a funding shortfall of $29 billion through 2020.
• Purchasing Power of Gas Tax. A flat tax, which is not indexed at the county or federal levels, that loses value as time goes by. If the federal government does not increase gas taxes over time, we will eventually be putting in less money toward the transportation network than we have in the past.
• Roadway Funding Entities. If Mobility 20/20 (The Orange County Transportation Mobility Initiative, a ½ cent extra sales tax referendum) passes on October 7, 2003, Orange County’s share of funding will go up dramatically.
• Growth Centers. The growth is shifting west along US 27, in the Golden Triangle area and, eventually, along the new Western Beltway.
• 2025 Expansion Map. Some growth on the SR 408 (East-West Expressway) toward Bithlo but most growth on a western connection to US 27 and a northwestern connection, potentially as far up as SR 44 east of Eustis.
• Five Year Work Plan. $876.4 million in improvements. Majority of projects improve the existing system.
• Five Year Work Plan/Key Components. SR 429 Part C, SR 429 Northern Extension, SR 408 widening, open road tolling projects and Good Homes Road interchange.
• SR 429 Part C. West Orange County from Ocoee south to I-4. Completion date 2005-2006.
• Potential Corridors to US 27. With the widening of SR 50 and the potential improvement of Hartwood Marsh Road, there may be too many competing corridors for OOCEA to build an expressway connecting to US 27.
• SR 429 Northern Extension. US 441 in Orange County is not funded for widening in the next 20 years. Other small, two-lane roads need major improvements. OOCEA is considering a project that would run, somewhat parallel to US 441, potentially, as far north as SR 44.
• SR 408 Widening. The west side project will cost approximately $600 million.
• Lake Underhill Bridge.
Mr. Pustelnyk then played a computer-generated video, an aerial tour, of the SR 408 (East-West Expressway) project in west Orange County. It is a comprehensive, seven-year project, that will transform the original 13-mile section of the 30-year-old Expressway into an attractive super highway. This portion of SR 408 will be widened to three lanes in each direction and auxiliary lanes between interchanges will be added. A key feature will be the demolition and relocation of the Holland-West main toll plaza. Open road tolling will allow E-PASS customers to bypass the toll plaza and pay their toll at highway speeds in three lanes. Cash customers will have four cash lanes. One important aspect of the project is the construction of sound walls. Concrete slopes underneath the bridges will be enclosed by colorful concrete retaining walls, eliminating the slope, enhancing visual appeal and improving security around the bridge structures. Barrier walls down the middle of the highway will prevent the possibility of head-on collisions. State-of-the-art crash barriers, guard rails, sign structures and highway lighting systems will be installed.
Mr. Pustelnyk continued his presentation by mentioning the University Plaza, an existing toll plaza that was converted to an express-lane format, where E-PASS customers go through at highway speed. All of the toll plazas, over the next five or six years, will be converting to this type of format and in the future, E-PASS customers will not realize they are going through a toll plaza. In conclusion, he noted the following key points:
• The Expressway system is a primary funding source for local transportation needs and is a critical part of the State’s highway funding process.
• A major capital improvement program is underway at this time.
• Deploying state of the art open road tolling. Finalizing agreements with Orlando International Airport for E-PASS parking.
• Partnering with public and private sector to maximize leverage.
FACILITATED GROUP DISCUSSIONS
Mr. Gwynn announced that the audience will break into groups which will provide some perspective on six areas of the County. He asked the audience to talk about the transportation needs and the priority corridors within the region and provide input on a series of questions about the 2025 vision. At 10:15 a.m., Mr. Gwynn asked the groups to spend approximately 30 minutes on the discussions.
At the conclusion of the group discussions, Mr. Gwynn thanked the audience for their participation and introduced the next speaker, Mr. Mike Snyder.
Mr. Mike Snyder, District 5 Secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), stated that he will discuss legislative issues from statewide and federal perspectives and the importance of regionalism in the future of transportation in Central Florida. Last year, Florida’s Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) was passed. The SIS is the statewide plan to look at connecting the seaports with the airports and the infrastructure road system around the State that will be necessary to make that happen. The Secretary of the FDOT is putting strong emphasis on intermodal and transit functions around the state with a regional focus that looks past county lines, METROPLAN borders and MPO borders. A new FDOT Assistant Secretary position will focus in the transit arena. He emphasized the tremendous statewide deficit of $29 billion and the need for additional funding. He stated that there are ways to deal with the deficit, including the formation of partnerships. The Wekiva River Basin Coordinating Committee is looking at the continuation and completion of what was once called the Western Beltway and is now called the Wekiva Parkway. He stated that water and land development issues in the Wekiva region are being studied. He commented that another important project, which needs to move ahead and which should be independent of the Wekiva Parkway, is the northwest extension of State Road 429 (Western Beltway). Because Lake County’s population has been doubling each decade since 1980, there are a lot of commuters who work elsewhere. Statistically, about 85% of those cars only have one person per vehicle. This tremendous growth creates a need for systems other than US 441 and SR 46. On a federal level, the big picture is the reauthorization of TEA-21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998) which replaced the previous law, ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991). Mr. Snyder opined that Florida’s rate of return from the Federal Highway Trust Fund is a very important issue. Including the highway side and the transit side of the program, the State of Florida is considered a donor state regarding the rate of return for every dollar sent to Washington and how much comes back to Florida. Florida currently gets back about 86 cents on the dollar and needs 95 cents on the dollar. He stated that the formula, the minimum guarantee, needs to be moved to 95% but the only way to accomplish that is to increase the pot the money comes from. Recipient states cannot be asked to take less, because their needs are great too, so the whole funding plan for transportation has to be looked at. European ideas are also being considered, including how trucks are taxed. He remarked that the State of Florida does not have a mature mass transit program and the October 7, 2003, referendum in Orange County will determine whether or not Central Florida will continue to move ahead in the transit arena. If there is no dedicated funding source, the Federal Transit Administration will not look at the region seriously because too many other areas are competing for funding. Mr. Snyder explained that federal money comes in a multitude of categories and there is a problem in moving money from one category to another. He remarked that federal money should be available for use wherever it is necessary.
Regarding regionalism, Mr. Snyder stressed its importance and Lake County’s role in the region. Lake County will be represented soon by an MPO but transportation is a regional issue, not just a county issue, and all Central Florida counties tie together because commuters travel across county lines and businesses want to attract people from other counties. He mentioned Lake County’s participation in myregion.org, a Central Florida initiative to tie seven counties together. He stated that the Florida Transportation Commission, a citizen’s oversight board of the FDOT, is looking at the MPO process. He opined that there should be fewer, not more, MPOs because getting regional people together and discussing problems may be a better way to do business in Florida. He remarked that everyone needs to focus on regionalism and the big picture for the State.
Regarding the improvements on SR 50 with the help of the MPO alliance, Mr. Snyder stated that Lake County and Orange County were willing to work together to advance the money to FDOT for the study and the design of that project. Because of the willingness of the two counties to cooperate, that project is moving forward and is years ahead of schedule. If Orange County’s 20/20 Mobility initiative passes next week, the SR 50 project will be finished long before the FDOT would have been able to begin the design phase.
Commissioner Cadwell commented that, regarding the reauthorization of TEA-21, the local delegation said it was not interested in raising the gas tax, and the other states are not willing to give up their money, but the Transportation Commission and the Florida Association of Counties have asked that they, at least, entertain the idea of indexing that federal gas tax and that would make up the deficit. He requested that Mr. Snyder suggest to his federal delegation in Washington that indexing is a way the difference in Florida’s rate of return can be made up.
RECESS AND RECONVENE
At 11:15 a.m., Mr. Gwynn announced the lunch break. At 11:40 a.m., the Forum reconvened and Mr. Gwynn commented that State Senator Daniel Webster, Senate District 9, who was on the preliminary agenda, would be unable to attend due to committee meetings in Tallahassee. He then introduced the Senator’s Legislative Assistant, Ms. Kathleen Mears.
Ms. Kathleen Mears, Legislative Assistant to State Senator Daniel Webster, District 9, stated that Sen. Webster is passionate about Lake County’s issues. She stated that Lake County items are always at the top of the priority list that is presented to the Appropriations Committee. She commented that Sen. Webster and his staff were saddened to have lost Lake County due to district reapportionment.
Mr. Greg Slay, Staff Director, Ocala/Marion County Metropolitan Planning Organization, gave a PowerPoint presentation (which is included in the backup material) on MPO roles in regional transportation. His presentation included the following:
• Brief History of MPOs. Established as part of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962 to facilitate a dialogue between state and local governments. An MPO is required for every urbanized area (50,000+ in population with certain density criteria) throughout the country. Currently 334 MPOs in the United States, 25 MPOs in Florida which range from 100,000 people in Brooksville/Hernando County to about 2.5 million people in Miami/Dade. 3 Cs of Transportation Planning are: Continuing, Comprehensive and Cooperative. The MPO process gives smaller communities a seat at the table.
• Formation of MPO. An agreement between the Governor’s Office and local governments representing 75% of the urbanized area population. Comprised of local elected officials, can include transportation authorities, and are limited to 19 voting members. The County Commission must comprise at least 1/3 of voting membership. Must establish three subcommittees: Citizens Advisory Committee, Technical Advisory Committee and Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board.
• Responsibilities of MPO. Long Range Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, Unified Planning Work Program, Congestion Management System, Efficient Transportation Decision Making and Federal Enhancement Program.
• Coordination Efforts. Four MPOs currently designated in District 5 include Brevard County, METROPLAN Orlando, Ocala/Marion County and Volusia County. Central Florida MPO Alliance.
HAROLD W. BARLEY
Mr. Harry Barley, Executive Director, METROPLAN Orlando, gave a PowerPoint presentation (which is included in the backup material) on the Central Florida MPO Alliance. He stated that he is a neighbor and a business partner of Lake County. His presentation, focusing on regionalism, included the following:
• Need for Alliances and Partnerships. Per the 2000 census, 29% of Lake County residents worked in another county, second only to Seminole County. Orlando/Volusia MPO Alliance formed in 1997. The I-4 corridor between Daytona Beach and Tampa will be one huge corridor in the future.
• Key Factors in Establishing Alliance.
• Goals of the Orlando-Volusia MPO Alliance.
• I-4 Bridge Across St. Johns River. Came about through the work of the Alliance, coupled with business partnerships and local, state and federal financing for the $110 million project.
• Organization Evolution. In 1997, Orlando-Volusia MPO Alliance. In 1999, METROPLAN Orlando-Brevard County cooperative planning agreement. In 2000, METROPLAN Orlando-Lake County cooperative planning agreement. In 2001, Central Florida MPO Alliance.
• Members of the Central Florida MPO Alliance. METROPLAN Orlando, Volusia County MPO, Brevard MPO and Lake County Government. Polk Transportation Planning Organization added in May 2003.
• Alliance Agreement Stipulates.
• Structure of the Central Florida MPO Alliance. 15 members - 3 from each of 5 organizations. FDOT District V and District I participation. Next quarterly meeting will be in Tavares on October 29, 2003.
• Challenges. Topics impacting all partners. May need dedicated staff support.
• Recent Activities. July 2003 Central Florida and Tampa Bay areas (13 counties) met to discuss transportation issues of significance to the entire region.
• Seven-County Long Range Transportation Plan (Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia Counties). Plan will be presented to Lake County Commissioners at the end of October 2003. In December 2003, transportation legislative priorities for the 7-county region will be presented to the Florida Delegation, House and Senate.
• myregion.org SourceBook. Culmination of two years of work across the seven-county region and includes regional resolves.
Mr. Barley concluded that these seven counties have come together in an alliance and are committed to staying together and working together for the purposes of seeing more successes than one county might be able to accomplish on its own. He opined that the region will, in fact, benefit.
JIM STIVENDER, JR.
Mr. Jim Stivender, Director of the Lake County Department of Public Works, expressed his appreciation to Mr. Noble Olasimbo, AICP, Engineer IV, and Ms. Anna Lawver, of the Public Works Department, for the great job they did in putting today’s Forum together. He stated that partnering is very important and he gave a PowerPoint presentation (which is included in the backup material) which included the following topics:
• Infrastructure Sales Tax Revenue. Construction and Resurfacing.
• Road Impact Fee Fund. For the last four years, more money has been collected in the Clermont/Four Corners area than in all the other areas of the County combined.
• Transportation Trust Fund (Gas Tax). Very little capital and basically used for personnel and maintenance.
• Partnering and Accomplishments.
• Major County-Funded Projects. Thomas Avenue, N. Hancock/S. Hancock, Huffstetler Road, and CR 448.
• Transportation Funding Projects’ Priorities. Legislative funding requests: US 441 Trail, CR 470, CR 466, Hartwood Marsh Road, and CR 44B - US 441 to SR 44.
• Lake County 2025 Transportation Vision.
• Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Formation & Process. Where does the MPO get its authority? What is a MPO?
• Lake Sumter MPO Board Membership. 13 voting members: 5 Lake County Commissioners, 1 Sumter County Commissioner and 1 elected official from 7 large cities. Non-voting members from 7 small cities.
• Lake County Public Works Department. Divisions: Engineering, Road Operations, Special Services and Construction Projects. 209 + 12 seasonal employees.
• MPO Committee Structure. MPO Board, MPO Staff, Technical Advisory Committee, Citizens Advisory Committee and Transportation Disadvantaged Local Board.
• Major MPO Planning Responsibilities.
• Staff Recommendations.
In closing, Mr. Stivender reiterated that partnering is extremely important and today’s Forum is an important part of the process. He expressed his appreciation to the attendees.
DAVID GWYNN (CONTINUED)
Mr. David Gwynn gave the following recap of comments that were made during the Facilitated Group Discussion period.
• Zone 1 (Northeast). Need for east/west corridor improvements. Concentrating growth but maintaining the rural character. Need for paved roads.
• Zone 2 (Mount Dora/Eustis Areas). Widening of CR 44B and US 441. Bike and pedestrian trails.
• Zone 3 (Tavares to Leesburg). CR 44/Radio Road. CR 473 and SR 19. More trails projects. More connection between the northern parts of Zones 3 and 4. Possibility for creating separate interchanges on US 441 at CR 44 and SR 19.
• Zone 4 (Leesburg to Lady Lake). US 441 through Lady Lake and the Villages to six lanes. 4-laning of CR 466 and CR 466A. Coordination with adjacent counties, Marion and Sumter, as well as the Villages. Public transportation in Leesburg.
• Zone 5 (Clermont Area). SR 50. US 27. Interchange improvements. Hartwood Marsh.
• Zone 6 (Southwest). Intersection safety needs. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
Commissioner Cadwell expressed his appreciation to the attendees and invited comments, after adjournment, regarding whether this type meeting should be held every year or every other year.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:35 p.m.
WELTON G. CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK