Toll roads keep Florida moving
As America recognizes Infrastructure Week, the magnitude of the deficiencies associated with our nation's transportation infrastructure are in the spotlight, largely due to the fact that federal gas tax revenues have failed to keep up with inflation. The unwillingness to increase the federal gas tax has left many states struggling to find alternative ways to fund the maintenance and improvement of our roadways, bridges and transit services.
Many states, like Florida, are seeing an increase in the use of toll roads. A national transportation industry group expects the total miles of toll roads in America to go from 5,000 in 2014 to 25,000 by 2030. There's a reason — a good one. Although no one likes paying tolls, these roadways give states like Florida options to serve a growing population without relying on the federal gas tax, which hasn't been adjusted since 1993. Since tolling agencies generally don't receive federal gas tax contributions, revenue from tolls collected are the only funds available to build and maintain those roadways. Without tolling as an option, there simply wouldn't be enough revenue to fund additional roadways needed to meet growing demands in our state and others. Imagine what our daily commutes would look like if we removed all toll roads and put those cars on non-tolled roads?
In addition, with the increased use of hybrid and electric vehicles, transportation agencies also recognize that the concept of the gas tax itself is outdated and needs to be replaced. Tolling is a viable alternative and equitable funding option where drivers only pay for the roads they use, and the tolls paid go directly to maintain those same roadways. Florida's transportation network ranks among the best in the country, and the use of toll roads is a critical element that keeps our commutes and economy moving forward.
Charlie Herndon, senior vice president, HNTB Corp., Tampa
Trump fires Comey | May 10
Reasons don't add up
Does this administration think the American people are stupid enough to believe that the Russia inquiry had nothing to do with James Comey's firing? On the contrary, I believe the FBI director was getting very close to the truth about all the interference in the election and the financial ties to Russia by the Trump administration. That is why he was fired.
And if the president acted so fast firing Comey because of information from the attorney general's office, why did he not do the same thing with Michael Flynn?
Sylvia Fies, St. Petersburg
Why would Republicans object to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump's associates' ties to Russian operatives accused of tampering in the presidential elections? Don't we all want the truth? Are Republicans afraid of the truth?
The president just fired FBI director who was leading the investigation into Trump associates and the Russians. How can we ever trust the Justice Department to conduct and impartial investigation into this serious matter?
Anthony Edl, Odessa
Congress should step up
President Donald Trump is neither king nor god. He was elected into the executive branch as president. We have three equal branches of government. The legislative branch has equal power to the executive branch. I suggest members of Congress start using it.
Deborah Gage, Wesley Chapel
Israel, a beacon for Mideast | May 3, commentary
Israel and human rights
In this column, the "major conference in Washington" where Tony Blair spoke was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. This is a powerful lobbying organization, one that some would say acts as an agent of the Israeli government, with a "stranglehold" on the U.S. Congress.
Blair did make the comment that Israel is a "beacon for the Middle East," but he also went on to say the battle in the Middle East is against extremism and in favor of mutual respect across boundaries, race, faith and culture. And if we want the Middle East to succeed, we need to base this new partnership not just on interests, but on basic human values of dignity, respect and tolerance for all.
If you visit Palestine and talk to its people, you will learn, like I did, that Israel's actions do not square with any of these narratives when it comes to the Palestinians. It behaves as extremists with little regard for international laws or human rights. In fact, millions of Palestinians have been forced to leave their homes and country to live in refugee camps while their land is taken from them and their homes are bulldozed.
The columnist also made many glowing comments about the economy and wealth in Israeli. This is true. But why then are American taxpayers expected to endure cuts in social services while lacking the money to fix water pipes in Flint, Mich., for example, as we borrow money from China so we can increase the billions of dollars we ship to Israel every year? The answer is AIPAC.
Bob Horner, Orlando
FPL delivers savings to customers May 1, letter
No friend of solar
If Florida Power & Light Co. truly wanted to benefit its customers — while allowing its shareholders a good return on their investment — it would build out Florida's most abundant energy resource: solar.
It's cheaper than gas and, because the fuel is free, solar is naturally insulated from price spikes. Solar keeps money in Florida, generates local jobs and doesn't exacerbate climate change.
The letter's claim that FPL is "a national leader in installing solar affordably" must be meant as a joke. FPL generates a measly 1 percent of its electricity from solar. This fact, and FPL's staunch support of the anti-solar Amendment 1, makes it clear that FPL is no friend of solar.
Lynn Nilssen, Sarasota