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Orlando Sentinel – Local governments should team up on roads: Where we stand

Being stuck in traffic is a harsh reality for many living and commuting in Central Florida everyday. Large construction projects and a growing population aren’t helping either. The good news is that Congress and the President recently passed a bill that will set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to help metro areas like ours reduce traffic congestion through technology. Yes, technology and not road widening or adding new roads.

However, local governments need to work together to compete for these funds before they are granted to other metro areas facing the same problem. Read the Orlando Sentinel article below for more insight into this issue.

Here’s something to stew over the next time you’re stuck in traffic on one of Central Florida’s clogged arteries:

The latest federal transportation bill, passed last month by Congress and signed by the president, set aside hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years to help metro areas reduce traffic congestion through technology. That’s a much cheaper and more sustainable approach for taxpayers and their communities than building new roads or widening existing ones.

But Central Florida needs more of its local governments to join forces soon to compete for those funds.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Winter Park Republican and senior House Transportation Committee member, has been promoting so-called intelligent transportation systems for years. Those systems utilize electronic signals from cars and trucks to synchronize traffic lights to move vehicles more efficiently.

os1Mica says major roads in Central Florida that regularly bog down under high traffic volumes — think U.S. highways 17-92 and 441 and state roads 50 and 436 — would be ideal for this approach.

The board of MetroPlan Orlando, the transportation planning agency for Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, passed a resolution last month pledging to work with the Florida Department of Transportation to develop an intelligent transportation pilot project and apply for the federal dollars to help finance it. But as the board noted, it’ll take a broad base of support — commitments from local governments — for Central Florida to compete.

Seminole County, Apopka and Winter Springs have officially passed resolutions in support. Resolutions are now on the agenda in Orange County, Lake Mary, Casselberry and Winter Park, and should come up soon in DeBary and Orange City.

MetroPlan’s board also includes leaders from Orlando, Sanford, Altamonte Springs and Kissimmee. It only makes sense for those local governments to follow up with their own resolutions, too — quickly.

State and county governments in Central Florida, as well as the city of Orlando, maintain their own systems for managing traffic. They will need to put aside their parochial impulses and cooperate to build the kind of system envisioned by the transportation bill.

Heaven knows Orlando can use it. Last year, the region was rated 18th worst in the country for traffic congestion.

State and local governments also will need to put up some money for intelligent transportation, because federal funding would cover only half the cost. But upgrading highway technology is still much cheaper than building or widening roads.

Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, January 20, 2016

Click here for the original article.

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