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Bill put forward to repeal toll road projects

by | Feb 3, 2021


Legislation was put forward today to stop the construction of several toll roads and other projects that are part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program.

Senator Tina Polsky (D-District 29) filed Senate Bill (SB) 1030, which would repeal M-CORES and return budgeted revenue back into the state’s general revenue fund.

In 2019 Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB7068, which created the M-CORES Program. The program includes three proposed corridors in the state of Florida: the Suncoast Connector, extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County; the Northern Turnpike Connector, extending from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway; and, the Southwest-Central Florida Connector, extending from Collier County to Polk County.

The purpose of the program, according to the M-CORES webpage, was “to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources.”

The three proposed regional corridors were intended to “accommodate multiple modes of transportation and multiple types of infrastructure.”

To date, construction has not begun, however millions have been spent just to study the proposals.

But according to Levy County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, no one wants it.

She said she has talked with hundreds of citizens of that rural county about the project and only one of them was in favor of it.

The No Roads to Ruin Coalition, a group of organizations and businesses focused on stopping the statewide toll roads plan, conducted a public opinion survey on the topic. Out of the 10,000 who commented, 93 percent were against the project.

Polsky said not only did people not want or need the project, it would also costs hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when the state is just emerging from a significant economic downturn due to the pandemic. It would have significant environmental impacts, harm agriculture and devastate small businesses along existing routes.

“It’s just not a wise use of money,” she said.

Florida Representative Ben Diamond (D-District 68) also supports the repeal of the program. “It is a challenge in the budget to fund the critical needs of our state, like the unemployment system, public health infrastructure … and to complete transportation projects that are actually needed.”

“There is a real need to be thoughtful in what we fund this year,” he said.

Polsky said she is confident SB 1030 can pass this year. She said that the Legislature’s leadership have indicated that all government programs are on the table due to projected revenue shortfalls.The Capitolist reached out to the governor’s office and the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel for comment, but has not heard back yet.

“If we don’t cut it off at the knees now, we’re really in for it,” Polsky said, explaining that once M-CORES begins building roads, it will cost too much to stop and will end up costing Floridians hundreds of millions of dollars, not just this year, but long into the future.

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