Florida plans to advance $3 billion of transportation projects, according to Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad.

Prasad last week outlined projects and funding strategies, including the use of tolls and public-private partnerships, for the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association.

“While [the Florida Department of Transportation]’s current budget is about $7.9 billion, we must identify creative financing alternatives to get more projects through the production pipeline,” said Prasad, who noted that the gas tax is not sustainable as a funding source.

The DOT will use innovative financing tools to advance nearly $1 billion of construction projects in its budget during the current fiscal year, and Florida Turnpike Enterprise revenues will be leveraged to finance another $1.8 billion in projects, the secretary said.

“Florida will be implementing a policy that all new capacity on interstates and expressways and widening and replacement of all major river crossings should be tolled where feasible, or at the very least tolls should complement traditional funding in delivering the improvements and new capacity,” he said.

The DOT will be developing a system of managed lanes across the state whereby existing or new lanes are tolled using variable pricing depending on the time of day.

A number of managed-lane projects will be done around the state, including for the severely congested Interstate 4 in the Orlando area, where an investment-grade traffic and revenue study will be done in 2012, Prasad announced.

An industry forum will be held next year to talk to P3 firms about participating in managed-lane projects.

P3 projects are likely to include operations of south Florida’s Tri-Rail existing mass transit system, which links Palm Beach County to Miami.

There will be added attention to dredging projects at the state’s ports to prepare them for larger ships once the Panama Canal is widened, as well as plans for the movement of cargo by air and truck.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise will be leveraged to advance $1.8 billion of major transportation improvements, Prasad said, noting that the facility is “highly rated.”

A turnpike industry forum will be held in late September or early October to discuss P3 opportunities and various projects, including naming rights for the Florida Turnpike and its plazas.

The Turnpike’s $2.9 billion of outstanding bonds are rated AA-minus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, and Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service. All ratings have stable outlooks.

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