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Florida toll head is out but new road PPP unlikely

Beset by debt and under siege from city hall, the head of the Orlando Orange toll agency has handed in his resignation. But the project that brought him down – the Wekiva 25-mile toll road – is unlikely to be procured as a PPP.

Much-maligned Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority (OOCEA) boss Mike Snyder has quit amid a deluge of public criticism and political backbiting centred on his alleged failure to keep his department solvent.

A week ago Snyder, 64, first offered to retire in March, when he will turn 65. On Monday, he agreed to relinquish his role as executive director on December 29. The five-member authority board yesterday accepted his resignation. A spokeswoman from the toll authority told Infrastructure Investor a replacement for Snyder has not been named. 

Orange County mayor Teresa Jocobs, a harsh critic of Snyder as well as a board member with the authority, has lobbied for county comptroller Jim Moye to take over.

Jocobs has lambasted Snyder for his supposed lack of financial stewardship. She claimed that Snyder said a 2009 toll increase would fund construction of a multibillion dollar road project, when in fact he used the price increase to shore up his department. The unpopular toll increase came at the peak of the financial crisis, and the project, named the Wekiva Parkway, has remained in limbo.

Still, while the authority is determined to go ahead with the 25-mile toll road project, the spokeswoman cast doubt on Wekiva’s chances of being procured as a public-private partnership (PPP):

“They [the authority] could certainly study it for a PPP but it would unlikely be viable for a PPP project,” Hodges said. 

OOCEA has struggled to right what a 2009 grand jury report called a “culture of corruption” that led the authority to coerce vendor businesses into funding its political agenda.

Snyder, who joined the authority in 2004, is earning $247,500 a year, the agency revealed. 

OOCEA has also fallen out of favour with Wall Street. Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded its bond credit rating from A1 to A2.