Two local legislators, two different ideas about how to deal with proposed Alligator Alley lease

 Dave Aronberg (D)

Dave Aronberg (D)

Rep. Tom Grady

Rep. Tom Grady

Two local legislators have different ideas about how to deal with the lease of Alligator Alley.

Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, filed two bills to stop the controversial lease of the road. One would place a two-year moratorium on road lease agreements in the state and the other would prevent the leasing of existing toll roads to foreign funded corporations.

But he couldn’t find any Southwest Florida legislators in the House to support them.

Instead, Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples, filed his own bill, which would keep money made from the lease of the Alley — if it happens — in Southwest Florida.

Both bills could be approved by the Legislature.

Grady said money from the proposed lease would stay in Collier and Broward counties and not be used to substitute money that the county would have received under Florida Department of Transportation’s five-year plan.

Grady has received support on the senate side. House Bill 1189 is being sponsored by state Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples.

“My bill says, if it’s going to happen, I want to make sure we get top dollars and I want to make sure those dollars stay in Collier County,” Grady said.

Senate Bill 150, filed by Aronberg in November, places a two year moratorium on leasing existing transportation facilities. His companion bill, Senate Bill 204, seeks to prevent the leasing of existing toll roads to foreign funded corporations.

Final bids on the road lease due to FDOT were postponed from Jan. 9 to May 8.

Grady opposes both of Aronberg’s bills. Still, he thinks it’s a mistake to sell or lease a roadway.

Grady said he supports free trade in America.

The bills still have to get set for a hearing in committee. The date is unknown.

Aronberg wants it to be soon.

“I hope that it’s done now because there is still a lot of urgency because the (lease) deal is still on the table,” Aronberg said.

Aronberg believes the deal has national security implications because it could involve selling U.S. infrastructure to foreign-owned companies, he said.

Aronberg’s bills are sponsored by Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston.

Aronberg said he was a little disappointed that no Southwest Florida representative stepped up to support his bills, considering the issue is very important to the area.

“We want to stop the lease and sale of a major Southwest Florida taxpayer asset,” Aronberg said.

The Citizens Transportation Coalition, a group that formed to oppose the lease of the Alley, supports both of Aronberg’s bills.

Gina Downs, a Citizens Transportation Coalition member, wrote in an e-mail that the lack of support for Aronberg’s bills from other Southwest Florida elected officials is baffling.

The coalition’s goal is to prevent the sale of the publicly owned Alligator Alley to a private company.

The coalition opposes Grady’s bill because the bill doesn’t specify not to sell public assets, Downs said.

However, Downs said the coalition appreciates Grady’s efforts to keep the money in Collier and Broward counties and also prevent the county from being penalized by receiving fewer FDOT funds.

The group met on Monday to compile “Alligator Alley Blue Books” describing the pitfalls and detailing its objections to the proposed sale or lease of public assets.

The blue books — 62 binders with 373 pages — were mailed to elected officials, Downs said. An additional 30 binders will be mailed out early next week.

Collier County Commissioner Frank Halas said he supports Aronberg’s bills

“I feel that there’s no reason to sell Alligator Alley,” Halas said.

Halas hasn’t read Grady’s bill.

Commissioner Jim Coletta also supports Aronberg’s bills. He wasn’t supportive of turning the alley over to foreign-owned companies.

If all else fails, Coletta said Grady’s bill, which he wasn’t aware of until Friday, would be a good for residents because at least money would stay in Collier County.

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