Wekiva Parkway, also known as the most expensive highway in Central Florida history, has now passed all hurdles and the $1.66 billion road will be built. And it’s going to be a toll road once completed on top of the extreme price tag. Meaning, we the taxpayers are helping front the largest bill in Central Florida history and then anyone who chooses to use it will be double charged. Wekiva won’t even be completed for years, possibly 2021.
Not to mention Wekiva’s route adds way too many miles to get through “Orlando” as it completes the beltway AROUND Orlando. Who is going to pay to go waste more gas and time on driving out of the way just to get around traffic? No one. From point-to-point to link back up with I4 or get to the parks areas from Wekiva, drivers would add close to a third of the journey in addition to their regular commute. Not likely that Orlando drivers will ditch I4 and the more direct routes, even with the drag of traffic. So who will actually use Wekiva? They haven’t proven ridership for the largest toll road. The demand simply is not there and the need for this “final link” in the beltway is not needed as a top priority right now.
Even with Florida’s Turnpike agency and the Express Authority contributing to the financing of Wekiva Parkway, it’s our tax dollars that made this project happen. The county and the state don’t get any return on this toll revenue yet they are original investors – meaning we are all original investors.
Yet none of the toll money is going to go to pay off the bonds and the revenues will not go back to our local or state governments – more like the salaries for the Expressway Authority? It becomes a crazy shuffle of transportation funds and revenues with the Florida Turnpike agency and the Expressway Authority getting the return and control. On top of this, our local needs go unmet and the drain on transportation funds and priorities has been shifted to big spending projects like this.
Progressives make a lot of noise about privatization – here in Florida we’re in battles to stop privatizing prisons, services, healthcare…yet nothing really on toll roads. At the end of the day, it is privatization of our roadways. Even worse, they use our tax dollars to finance the construction and then charge drivers who do use them. Socialized privatization?!
It’s also a way of discriminating against who is able to use our roads. Poor people, struggling working class families and those with little or no disposable income can’t even think about using toll roads like Wekiva yet their tax dollars will be used for it. Their tax dollars won’t be going to fix the local transportation needs, pot holes, paving, etc. Do you see additional funds being spent in the Parramore or Pine Hills roads? They sure could use it.
At the end of the day, Wekiva is just another blatant signal that our priorities are off. And it will be yet another huge spending project right here in Orlando that won’t move our community forward – or help our traffic nightmare.