State may privatize Alligator Alley, Tampa Skyway Bridge
The Florida Department of Transportation has completed a preliminary report on the possible privatization of four major state toll roads — including Alligator Alley and the Sunshine Skyway over Tampa Bay — to provide an infusion of cash that could offset projected budget shortfalls over the next two years.
The state legislature passed a bill during the last session that would allow the state to lease roads operated by the FDOT. The legislation did not apply to the Florida Turnpike, which is part of a separately administered highway system.
The toll roads examined in the report included Alligator Alley, the stretch of Interstate 75 that runs across the state between Fort Lauderdale and Naples; plus the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; the Pinellas Bayway; and the Beachline Expressway in Central Florida.
Alligator Alley, which is the primary roadway between South Florida and the Tampa Bay area, is being viewed as the most likely candidate for leasing because it is comparatively low maintenance, making it attractive to potential private sector toll road companies.
The report said Alligator Alley could bring in a lease valued at between $500 million and $1.3 billion, depending on future toll rates. The Skyway, meanwhile, would be worth $1.3 billion if operators raised tolls to anticipated market rates.
Privatized toll roads have been used as a means to increase short-term revenues in the Chicago area and in Indiana, as well as in San Francisco. But the concept is controversial, primarily because of fears road users could be subject to toll rate decisions by private sector companies that would not have to answer to the public.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has said that although the state is looking at the toll road leases, he would have to be convinced the leases would be in the best interest of the state. ' Jim Dow