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Plans for funds from Broward's penny surtax

Broward commuter rail study area map
Florida Department of Transportation
Broward commuter rail study area map

In November 2018, Broward County voters approved a 30-year one-cent sales tax to increase mobility and address challenges in the county’s transportation system.

On every dollar spent on taxable items, 1 cent is added in sales tax. The revenue goes to improving public transportation, from adding light rails and upgrading bridges and roads to adding express buses and developing sidewalks.

It’s been four years since the bill was passed, and there are 26 more to go.

On the South Florida Roundup, we spoke about the difference the penny tax has made in Broward and what projects the county has in mind.

Tim Garling, Deputy General Manager of the Broward County Transportation Department, said that as of today, there are over 700 active projects that are either underway or programmed for the next five years. He also said these projects total almost $1 billion dollars.

Out of these projects, their big flagship one is called the “Premium Mobility Plan.”

“We expect to have it completed really in the spring, and this is going to define our premium transit services really over the rest of the surtax period,” Garling said.

This plan includes bus rapid transits, transit lines with high-quality stations, high frequency, and a core of rail transit provided by bus rapid transit throughout Broward County. In terms of funding, Garling said they have enough to put in seven bus rapid transit systems that can travel throughout the county, on top of a light-rail system.

Twenty years ago, voters in Miami-Dade passed a half-penny tax, however, a lot of the money raised through it has been regularly diverted to pay for regular maintenance, operations and road projects. A lot of the transit promises made two decades ago have not been fulfilled.

To avoid this, Garling said the Broward County full-penny surtax was designed and budgeted to run the existing system as well as expand and improve the aforementioned services.

“When we put this plan together … we knew that we weren’t providing the level of services that were necessary,” Garling said. “ Our problem was we just didn’t have the funding to pay for it.”

Broward County has 31 municipalities ranging from little beachside towns to Fort Lauderdale – to Weston and Parkland on the edge of the Everglades. This sprawl leads to diverse transportation needs throughout the county.

Garling said that people will use transit if it serves them, and their challenge is to combine a total transit system that encompasses the county that properly meets the needs of everyone in the county.

Listen to the full episode here.

Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.