Palm Coast, FL – Bringing humorous anecdotes from his time in D.C. working as chief of staff for one of the 21st century’s most high profile transportation chairmen on Capitol Hill, to visions of what the future may hold for transportation, Florida Transportation Commissioner Rusty Roberts kept it fast-paced in an industry known for moving at a much slower clip.
Touching on the basic fundamentals of the Florida Department of Transportation, Roberts highlighted the pillars of the state’s transportation arm and the $10.4 billion budget for next year before sharing more about the current Florida Secretary of Transportation Kevin Thibault’s passion for safety and reducing fatalities on Florida’s roadways.
“That’s part of what Secretary Thibault calls his ‘Vital Few’ which is a major focus of Florida DOT – to improve safety, to enhance mobility, inspire innovation and to foster talent within the DOT, bring people up,” said Roberts, returning the focus to safety as a key issue for the state.
“The problem is fatalities are rising. In Florida we have about 8 fatalities a day and most are speed related,” he said, noting Florida Highway Patrol gave out 230 tickets in 2021 to people who were driving 50 miles an hour over the speed limit, and people ticketed for not wearing a seat belt went up by 16 percent.
Secretary Thibault has been tapped to head up the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and while FDOT will continue to focus on safety and transportation-related issues, Roberts, as a commissioner on the Florida Transportation Commission will work with colleagues to recommend the next Florida Secretary of Transportation to Governor DeSantis.
But Wait, There’s More …
Transportation junkies got their fill from a buffet of topics shared by Roberts during the luncheon at Channel Side in Palm Coast.
Roberts addressed everything from the recently passed bipartisan federal legislation, and it’s impact on Florida, to hot topics like the future of electric vehicles, challenges faced by Florida Power & Light to the grid as more Americans transition to EVs and the inability of Americans to charge their vehicles at rest stops (which is prevented by law), while sharing details on Purdue University’s testing of a high speed charging cable set to reduce electric vehicle charging time to under 5 minutes, high speed rail potential future expansion as far north as Jacksonville, and the current federal formula for bridge repair funding causing state officials heartburn.
“I spoke today about the Florida transportation budget, 5-year work program and the recently passed bipartisan law that will be sending money to the states for infrastructure projects. I hope today that people got a better understanding about how federal transportation dollars are spent through the states and the formula, through the local governments, and they get a better idea of what the future holds for transportation projects in Florida,” he said.
“My lifelong career has been politics and my love of transportation came out of that,” shared Roberts. “I was working in politics and got lucky enough to work for a member Congress who was on the transportation committee and that was his favorite subject. I learned all about transportation in that capacity and that’s why I wanted to stay in this business.”
As long-time colleagues and friends, Flagler Tiger Bay Club Vice President Don Madden was thrilled to welcome Roberts as the first guest speaker of the new year.
“Rusty is one of the real experts in the state of Florida on transportation issues. You can’t do it justice in a 20 minute talk, but any area of transportation from his experience up in John Mica’s office to his current position on the commission, if he doesn’t know the answer, he knows where to get it,” said Madden.
“We were very blessed to have him here.”
The Flagler Tiger Bay Club will host Kevin Doyle, Vice President for State Affairs of the Consumer Energy Alliance on February 16, 2022 at noon, as the February guest speaker, at the Hammock Dunes Club in Palm Coast.