Brevard County’s push to get onto the Central Florida Expressway Authority Board won almost simultaneous victories Thursday in a Florida House panel and the expressway authority’s board itself.
The effort is being spearheaded by state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Merritt Island Republican whose House Bill 299 would create a 10th seat on the expressway board and reserve it for a Brevard County representative.
On Thursday that bill swiftly and unanimously cleared the House Government Accountability Committee with no discussion and no debate. It’s the second House committee the bill has cleared. A companion bill, state Sen. Debbie Mayfield‘s Senate Bill 720, awaits two hearings in the Senate.
The matter had come to a surprise to the expressway authority itself, which was not aware of the bills or the effort behind them, until after the bills had been filed. CFX officials initially had expressed confusion about the effort because no CFX highways extend into Brevard, and only very long-term plans – 20 or more years out – envision any, and those plans had anticipated the Brevard portions would be built by the state.
Yet on Thursday, the CFX board decided it liked the idea, given the current and growing cross-commuting and tourist transportation between the two counties and the longterm prospects.
The CFX board got its first briefing on the matter Thursday morning from Brevard County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Curt Smith in Orlando — literally simultaneously with when Goodson presented his bill to the House Government Accountability Committee in Tallahassee.
Ten minutes after the House committee approved Goodson’s HB 299 in Tallahassee, the CFX board crafted and unanimously approved a resolution supporting the bill in Orlando.
Goodson and Smith both made clearer the intentions behind the bill. In his Feb. 22 presentation to the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, Goodson implied that CFX already has highways in Brevard County. On Thursday, before the House Government Accountability Committee, Goodson clarified that to say only the non-CFX portions of those roads enter Brevard.
“Sections of the expressway also go into Brevard… Now once it hits the county line, it’s not theirs,” Goodson said. “But we encompass a lot of traffic coming from the airport, Disney and all that to the cruises and Port Canaveral.”
In his presentation in Orlando to the CFX board, Smith made it clear that he wanted Brevard to have a seat on the board because the traffic between the two counties is intertwined, and Brevard would like to be involved in any discussions that could lead to new toll roads to serve that traffic.
In particular, he advocated extensions of at least one CFX tollroad into Brevard to carry some of that traffic.
“Brevard would like to come to the table and be a part of CFX. We think we have a lot to offer. It would certainly be beneficial to us,” Smith said. “As Brevard continues to grow, and Central Florida continues to grow, it would provide another east-west corridor and greatly relieve the traffic on [State Roads} 520 and 528. Because if anybody has traveled up the East Coast … they stopped building roads about 20 years ago, but they didn’t stop adding people. And the roads are just crazy, terrible.”
Several CFX board members, led by Seminole County Commissioner Brenda Carey, said they thought a Brevard voice would be important to long-term planning for the region.
“I don’t know of any east-west roads that we have or that we’ve planned that stop at the east Orange County line,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, chair of the CFX board. “All of them if they reach the Orange County line they go ahead and go into Brevard County. So I think there is a pretty good consensus here that it would be wise to add a seat to this board and to include Brevard County.”