Miami, Florida – South Florida’s transit and environmental organizations are rallying against the state’s decision to reject $320 million in federal funding. This funding, aimed at transportation projects to reduce tailpipe emissions, was turned down by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) due to its connection to climate change initiatives, which state officials deemed overly political.
The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Carbon Reduction Program, designed to specifically target harmful emissions from the nation’s roadways, had earmarked $320.4 million for Florida. FDOT’s initial plan was to invest this substantial sum in various traffic projects. These included constructing roundabouts, expanding parking for freight trucks to minimize long-distance trucking time, and introducing electric transit buses. The department’s “Carbon Reduction Quick Guide” presentation highlighted the urgency of these measures, especially in heavily urban areas like Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, which are projected to face increased traffic congestion if no actions are taken.
However, FDOT’s stance shifted dramatically when department Secretary Jared Perdue wrote to federal officials, refusing to participate in the program. In a statement first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Perdue criticized the program as the “continued politicization of our roadways.”
The FHWA’s approach to greenhouse gas emission regulations does not enforce stringent requirements on states. According to a December FHWA ruling, the agency merely expects states within the National Highway System to work towards reducing emissions without mandating specific targets or imposing penalties for failure to meet these goals. The FHWA ruling states, “FHWA is only requiring that State DOTs and MPOs establish declining targets for [greenhouse gas] emissions on the NHS. The FHWA is neither requiring any specific targets nor mandating any penalties for failing to achieve these targets.”
This rejection of federal funds comes at a time when Florida is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The state is experiencing more active storm seasons and heightened storm surge due to sea level rise. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified Florida as one of the states at high risk from climate change, affecting not only its quality of life but also its economy.
The decision to decline the funding has raised questions about Florida’s commitment to combating climate change and its implications for the state’s future. As environmental and transit organizations mobilize in protest, the debate underscores the tension between political beliefs and the urgent need for environmental action in an era of growing climate challenges.