Super Region transportation plans on the horizon

Addressing transportation needs in Florida’s Super Region is an ongoing process. And big plans are already in place.

As Tampa Bay and Central Florida continue to grow together, the Florida Department of Transportation is working to develop the future transportation corridors that will support a globally competitive Super Region.

The Tampa Bay and Central Florida regions together have more than 7.5 million people and 3.1 million jobs in a 15-county area. Individual cities and urbanized areas are becoming knit together as an integrated Super Region with an estimated $300 billion in combined economic activity in 2010, the 10th largest regional economy in the U. S.. As many as 5.3 million additional residents are expected by 2060 if current trends continue, a 72 percent increase.

To prepare for this growth, FDOT recently completed a concept study of future mobility needs from Tampa Bay to Central Florida. This study is part of our Future Corridors ( planning process to identify major transportation corridors that will need to be enhanced or developed to support Florida’s economic competitiveness over the next 50 years.

Our approach involves working closely with metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning councils, local governments, economic development organizations and public and private landowners to understand where future growth is likely to occur so that we can plan to meet future mobility needs in this area. To accomplish this, we are building upon existing regional visions such as One Bay in Tampa Bay and How Shall We Grow? in East Central Florida.

In the next several decades, we expect to see more compact development around existing cities such as Tampa and Orlando, as well as emerging economic centers to the north and south of Interstate 4. The Super Region’s transportation system will continue to face significant challenges to accommodate future growth in population, employment and tourism.

We already have major efforts underway to address this growth, including a $2 billion reconstruction of 20 miles of I-4 from Kirkman Road to east of State Road 434 near Orlando; development of the SunRail commuter rail system that will ultimately link Poinciana to DeLand; and construction on the Wekiva Parkway, the final leg of the beltway around Orlando.

In response to anticipated growth in one area of this Super Region, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order on Nov. 1, 2013, creating the

East Central Florida Corridor Task Force. The task force will evaluate and develop recommendations on transportation, environment and land-use planning for portions of Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties. The work will encompass many converging issues, such as ongoing development of the Medical City at Lake Nona and other innovation hubs in all three counties; the need to transition the Space Coast economy with the end of the Space Shuttle program; plans to expand Spaceport and Port Canaveral; facilities being planned by the Osceola County Expressway Authority; a developing master plan for a portion of the 300,000-acre Deseret Ranch property; other major master-planned developments such as Viera; and the effort to introduce a rail connection between the Space Coast and Orlando as part of the All Aboard Florida initiative.

The task force, to be chaired by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, will issue its report to the governor by Dec. 1, 2014. We look forward to working with DEO and our other partners on this important effort to link land use, transportation planning and environmental stewardship.

Moving forward, we anticipate similar efforts in other parts of the Super Region and Florida. For example, we are beginning a collaborative planning process to comprehensively evaluate improved transportation connections between Tampa and Jacksonville, and provide long-term relief to Interstate 75. In all of our work we are evaluating not just where, but how, to develop these future corridors. We are exploring new approaches to developing multipurpose corridors that accommodate cars and trucks, rail and transit facilities, gas and electric transmission lines, and fiber optics and other communications systems. We will also be considering how new technologies, such as driverless vehicles, will affect corridor design.

Together, we can advance a desirable future for the Super Region by developing future economic centers and meeting future mobility needs while also protecting the precious environment that makes Florida such a special place. 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.

Editor’s note: Ananth Prasad is secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. The $7 billion agency oversees the state’s infrastructure work, including port dredging, highway expansion and maintenance projects.