‘The time is now:’ Orange County mayor makes final push for transportation tax ahead of final vote

Economist, Mayor Jerry Demings discuss problems posed by pandemic, inflation during economic summit

With the population growth, Demings said the current transportation system is overburdened and underfunded.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings made a final push for his transportation initiative ahead of a critical vote during the 2022 Orange County Regional Economic Summit.

Local leaders and business partners gathered Thursday to discuss transportation concerns during the summit.

[TRENDING: Bride, caterer arrested after guests at Longwood wedding say food was laced with marijuana | Florida House expected to approve bill that would remove Disney special district | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

During the event at Full Sail Live, economist Sean Snaith highlighted challenges that remain after the pandemic.

“It’s been an interesting couple years to say the least,” Snaith said. “The major issue we face (is) inflation. It’s currently 8.5%.”

Snaith said labor shortages and gas prices are also short-term concerns. He said the economy, for the most part, has seen a full rebound and growth is expected to continue.

“People continue to move into the region and I think that trend is not something that’s going to go away fast,” Snaith said.

With the population growth, Demings said the current transportation system is overburdened and underfunded.

“We need to find better transportation alternatives (for) moving people around our community,” he said.

Demings spoke about the proposal for a one-cent sales tax increase that’s focused on improving and expanding transportation infrastructure.

News 6 spoke to the mayor during a one-on-one interview after the summit. Demings said the current infrastructure cannot handle the growth.

“Quite frankly, we will not be able to efficiently move people around in our community without some transformative changes occurring,” Demings said.

The mayor said the transportation tax would raise nearly $600 million annually for the next 20 years.

“Fifty-one percent or better of the people who will pay for that will be the visitors, the tourists who are coming into our community, and it’s not just purely on the backs of people who live here,” Demings said.

The initiative includes creating a robust mass transit system, facilitating road improvements, and implementing new technologies.

“We will see some of the projects within likely the first year,” the mayor said.

Demings adds it would expand SunRail throughout the county and more than double the size of the LYNX bus fleet.

“To where 90-plus percent of the ridership will run with 30 minutes or less headways, and that will increase connectivity within our community and also reduce the cost of transit for low wage earners and those who depend on public transit within this community,” he said.

With Central Florida seeing tens of thousands of new residents every year, Demings said now is the time to act.

“The time is now,” Demings said. “Our residents deserve a convenient, affordable and reliable means of commuting to their jobs and other places.”

The sales tax proposal will be voted on Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Demings believes he has voters’ support to get it passed.

“Within that 20-year period of time you will totally see our current transportation system transformed into more of a modern transportation system,” he said.