In the 2019 Florida legislative session, Governor Ron de Santos and friends pushed through without much public comment three new toll roads for the state’s western rural part. The powers-that-be seemed to ramrod the whole thing down residents’ throats even though there were loud objections from area residents and environmental groups. Since that time, rarely a week goes by without an opinion piece against the three toll roads. This fall, the state has held informational sessions about the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) project.
The latest editorial from the Gainesville Sun states in its first very line one primary objection, “The last thing that Florida needs right now is to waste hundreds of millions of dollars building 330 miles of unnecessary toll roads through rural parts of the state.”
Three task forces comprised of 40 residents each, studying their respective projects, have found more reasons why these roads should be stopped in their tracks.
Here are the proposed toll roads:
- An extension of the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to the Georgia state line.
- A connector between the Florida Turnpike and the Suncoast Parkway.
- A new highway/toll road from Polk County to Collier County.
Each of these task forces recently issued draft reports indicating that each group’s participants were unable to determine a need for each project. They suggested that the Florida Department of Transportation consider a ‘no-build’ alternative and would rather see existing roads expanded or improved before any new highways/toll roads are built.
Credit: Steven Miller
Florida TaxWatch studied the Suncoast Connector project, the 150-mile north-south from Citrus County to Jefferson County and the Georgia State Line. The group concluded that the relatively minimal traffic found for the Suncoast Corridor casts doubt on whether the Connector can produce enough toll revenue to make it feasible. Likely not.
The online public comment concluded on October 14. That same day, the Florida Phoenix posted that thousands of public comments showed overwhelming opposition to M-CORES toll road projects. The areas of biggest concern were the impact on wildlife and the rural quality of life in the proposed roads.
Members of the opposition No Roads to Ruin coalition said earlier this month, the entire process is nontransparent, and task force members were not given any direct information on those ‘for’ or ‘against’ the three projects. The coalition comprises Florida environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, the Florida Native Plant Society, Florida Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club. Groups for the new tolls roads include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Ports Council, and the Florida Trucking Association.
Besides the Governor, outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano is the leading proponent. He claims that halting these projects will hinder rural area tech advances because high-speed internet expansion was part of the projects.
The Gainesville Sun wrote this in its recent editorial, “Florida should close gaps in broadband access, but the state doesn’t need to waste hundreds of millions on toll roads to address the problem…Lawmakers need to take the advice of those who have studied the toll roads, putting the brakes on building them and using the money for the state’s actual needs.”
Galvano leaves office in November. The reports will be sent to the governor and legislature by November 15th. This old-fashioned showdown will likely continue in the Sunshine State.