The Talleyrand Connector will tear down Jacksonville’s current Hart Bridge offramps, routing traffic toward JAXPORT and the Sports Complex.
The “turkey” designation was because the money circumvented usual process, added in late in the Legislative Session. State Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, was pivotal to ensuring the money got through.
Curry is still seeking outside money: a federal infrastructure grant for $25 million, backed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.
In the context of the turkey designation, we asked Curry, Bean and Rubio to evaluate the project.
They both said it was in the best interest of constituents, especially in this region.
Curry noted that the Florida Department of Transportation “commissioned a study … that clearly recommended that reworking that will enhance traffic flow for trucks to the port.”
Curry noted that JAXPORT supports the proposal.
“I’m grateful to the Senator for his support for the project at the state level,” Curry said. “Sen. Rubio’s working with me and my team and I think Congressman [John] Rutherford at the federal level. The city’s going to do its part as well. I absolutely support this project and I’m going to fight for this project all the way.”
We asked Bean why the appropriation was slid into the budget rather than going through a more traditional appropriations process.
“It’s not the first time TaxWatch has called anything we’ve done a turkey,” Bean noted.
“It’s of vital importance to the city of Jacksonville,” Bean added. “During the Legislative Session, we’re going to use any and all means to address my constituents and North Florida. We’ve always done that.”
Curry added that he “asked the Senator to help in the middle of Session. We have a relationship. It works for the city of Jacksonville. And here we are.”
Rubio added that “just because something’s not in an agency budget doesn’t make it a non-worthy project. No one elected the agencies.
“And so a turkey or pork spending in my view is when someone comes up with something that no one wants but them, or a small group of people. But when something has a regional impact,” Rubio said, “people can debate about whether it can be spent better one way or another, but in Congress, we fund state projects that go through a state process.”
“Just because something is not requested by an agency doesn’t make it a bad project. At the end of the day,” Rubio added, “these agencies are run by very good people who work hard but they aren’t elected.”
The city is expected to spend $12.5 million of the $50 million price tag, assuming federal money comes through as requested.