ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – It’s a make or break week for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ transportation initiative.
The county board of commissioners is set to vote on putting the measure on the November ballot during its meeting this week.
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Demings spent the last few days pushing for the penny sales tax, including during an Earth Day event this weekend that focused on the county’s air monitoring technology. He said the funds raised from the sales tax would help keep the pollution rate low.
“One of the ways we can do that is to look alternative modes of transportation in our community. It’s more environmentally friendly, (it) can reduce traffic congestion in our community,” Demings said. “That will be one of the benefits of the transportation sales tax if it passes in November of this year.”
The mayor kicked off his campaign for the sales tax in 2019, but paused his efforts because of the pandemic. He then renewed his push in January of this year. He said as our population is booming, the current transportation system is overburdened and underfunded.
“Within the last decade alone our population has grown nearly 25%. That has caused additional pressure on our roadways and our infrastructure here,” he said.
News 6 spoke to the mayor during a one-on-one interview following the county’s regional economic summit last week. He said if the transportation initiative passes, it would collect 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.
His proposal would create a robust mass transport system, including expanding SunRail and adding more buses to LYNX’s fleet. It would also include funding for road improvements and the implementation of new technology for pedestrian and bicycle safety.
“Within that 20-year period of time you will totally see our current transportation system transformed into more of a modern transportation system,” Demings said.
Demings is expected to speak to business leaders about the transportation initiative on Monday. The issue then goes before the board of commissioners on Tuesday. If approved, it will appear on the November ballot.