The Florida Department of Transportation has postponed the receipt of qualifications from potential concessionaires interested in designing, building, and operating a nearly $2 billion project near Jacksonville known as the First Coast Outer Beltway.
The state is planning to use a public-private partnership to build a four-lane, 46.5-mile-long, limited-access toll road between Interstate 95 in St. Johns County and Interstate 10 in Duval County. It includes a new bridge over the St. Johns River and 13 interchanges.
FDOT was expected to receive qualifications from prospective concessionaires in April, but delayed moving forward with the concession pending resolution of several issues, including environmental studies and questions about whether the successful concessionaire would be responsible for paying property taxes.
The property tax issue, because of the size of the Jacksonville Beltway, could jeopardize the financial feasibility of the project, FDOT said. In Florida, some privately operated projects on state-owned land are required to pay property taxes but it is unclear whether that applies to the department’s P3 projects.
Only the Legislature can clearly establish the law and legislators don’t meet in regular session until next year.
FDOT said the tax risk was acceptable and factored into concession proposals in previous P3s, such as the Miami tunnel project and a road-widening and reconstruction project in Broward County.
“The postponement of the concession agreement will allow the FDOT time to resolve the issue associated with potential property taxes on the First Coast Outer Beltway Public Private Partnership project,” the agency said in a recent announcement.
FDOT did not say how long it anticipated the concession would be delayed. More information on the P3 is available at www.fdotfirstcoastouterbeltway.com.