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FDOT Study: Investigation of Economic Impacts of Florida's Highway Beautification Program

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Photo: FDOT - Bridge of Lions Landscape Project

Each $1 invested in highway landscaping projects returns $3

"Landscaping of highway right-of-ways with appropriate trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcover plants is known as highway beautification. In Florida, the state legislature allocates funds for highway landscaping projects each year.

While highway beautification may enhance the driving experience of motorists, it is also presumed to provide monetary benefits by attracting private investment and contributing to the economy, both directly and indirectly. Professionally landscaped and maintained highways also result in greener and more environmentally sustainable road infrastructure.

This study was commissioned by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to estimate the regional economic impacts of highway beautification expenditures within the State. Activities related to highway beautification generate economic impacts in the form of increased industry output (revenues), employment, income, and local and state government tax revenues.

The spending for highway beautification stimulates additional indirect and induced economic activity through economic multiplier effects. For example, indirect effects occur as landscaping contractors purchase materials and equipment from other businesses in the State, while induced effects occur when households of proprietors and employees of affected businesses purchase goods and services within the State for personal consumption. The combined direct, indirect, and induced impacts of an activity represent its total economic impacts (Miller and Blair, 2009). These impacts occur over the development period of highway landscaping projects, typically 18 to 24 months.

This is the final project report, which also compares other studies of economic impacts of highway beautification in the United States, and other studies of economic impacts of infrastructure investment in Florida, with the specific findings on economic contributions of highway beautification expenditures in Florida during the past decade that were provided in interim project reports..."

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Florida Department of Transportation highway beautification program expenditures by district, FY 2008-13

Grand Jury Releases Findings On Billboard Company's Illegal Tree Cutting Permits

In June 2009, Citizens for a Scenic Florida received an anonymous letter reporting that acres of trees were being cut down along I-10 and other state roads in the Panhandle without approved vegetation management plans or associated mitigation fees.  As it turned out, more than 2000 trees were "illegally removed" from state right-of-way along I-10 and other roads in the Panhandle.  The letter indicated that the trees were removed by Bill Salter Advertising Co. in order to create view zones for the company's billboards.  The letter also suggested that Salter Advertising had used the influence of then State Representative Greg Evers to broker a deal with FDOT leadership and that an FDOT employee had been ordered by the FDOT District Director of Operations James Rodgers to let Salter Advertising "do whatever they want."  In response to public records requests by Citizens for a Scenic Florida and the St. Pete Times, no documents provided by FDOT confirmed any communications on the subject between then Representative Evers, then FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, and then FDOT Deputy Secretary Kevin Thibault.  In response to a public records request made in 2010 (by a citizen in St. Petersburg) for all emails to and from Secretary Kopelousos for a given period, among the thousands of documents provided by FDOT were emails revealing such communication between Evers, Kopelousos and Thibault. Other emails turned up later when the original records requests were repeated verbatim in 2011. This information was forwarded to the State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit and subsequently reviewed by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury called it a debacle.

* Grand Jury Presentment (report)

* Grand Jury Presentment Attachments

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida Press Release

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to Governor Scott

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to FDOT Secretary

FDOT letter (dated 2-22-2012) to Bill Salter Advertising, Inc.