The area's transportation planning agency, Metroplan, has approved a $500,000 study that will look at several new potential taxes and tolls to raise revenue for transportation. One of the main areas of study will be what is called a central congestion zone. The study will look at whether or not cars should be taxed just to drive into Downtown Orlando. Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards is not happy to see tax dollars spent this way.
"It's ridiculous. You see it all the time. All the time we are getting grants from federal money to fund things that we wouldn't fund ourselves with local dollars. The challenge is, if you don't, if you don't do the studies, if you don't take the grants, you don't get your tickets punched for other kinds of funding."
Just $350,000 of the study money is coming from Washington DC though. The rest will come from a combination of Metroplan, the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority, and local governments in the area. Edwards says you can go ahead and forget the biggest idea from the study, taxing people to drive in our most congested areas, such as International Drive.
"No, no I don't see in Orlando's future having a tax to drive either downtown or on I-Drive or any of our other urban core areas."
The study will look at two other components that transportation planners feel may be key to raising enough money to meet our future needs. First, they will look at variable tolls on roads like State Roads 408 and 417, plus other toll roads as a way to squeeze extra dollars out of the system. It could potentially cost you more to drive the 408 during rush hour, but less in the late nights when there is less demand.
That very concept will come to Interstate 4 once construction starts on new toll lanes in the center of that road in 2014. The study will not look at I-4. The Florida Department of Transportation will manage that road and set its variable rates.
The other concept that will be looked at in the study is variable rates at parking garages in and around Downtown Orlando. The changing rates could encourage people to park further away from their destinations and walk to ease congestion, or simply not drive and take SunRail once it begins operation in 2014.