Senate President Bill Galvano is calling on members of his chamber to take the lead in developing innovative approaches to the infrastructure needs of the state. Galvano on Wednesday specifically proposed the development of three multi-use corridors in west and north Florida, including the extension of both the Florida Turnpike and the Suncoast Parkway.
“We have a responsibility to not only meet today’s needs, but also to anticipate tomorrow’s demands, including a focus on revitalizing historic rural Florida communities,” Galvano said in a memo sent to senators.
The Senate president has instructed the new Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security to develop legislation that would expedite the construction of the three multi-use corridors.
Galvano’s plan would extend the Suncoast Parkway north of Tampa all the way to the Georgia border. The Florida Turnpike would be extended west and intersect with the Suncoast Parkway. The third corridor would be constructed from Polk County to Collier County.
The corridors run through what Galvano describes as “the spine” of the state, rural areas that have largely been ignored when it comes to past infrastructure funding and now face economic challenges and an exodus of jobs.
“These extensions of our existing infrastructure have been under consideration by the Department of Transportation and advocated by leaders of business and industry for many years,” Galvano said. “The time has come to prioritize these critical infrastructure enhancements and to combine those efforts with innovations that enhance surrounding communities, while providing new opportunities for job creation.”
Speaking at the Associated Press Legislative Planning Meeting at the state Capitol, Galvano said he would like for lawmakers to begin setting aside dollars for the major construction projects in the upcoming session, as well as to develop a timetable for having the three corridors completed.
A bill filed last year that would have extended the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia never went anywhere.
Galvano says his plan is a more comprehensive approach involving all three construction projects.
“What I’m referring to is not just revisiting a former bill,” Galvano said. “But to have a comprehensive plan to address all three of these corridors and do it on a set time schedule.”
Galvano says he doesn’t have a cost estimate for the three corridors, but he’s aware his plan will likely run into opposition from some environmental groups that have opposed past plans to extend the Suncoast Parkway. He says he’s willing to work with those groups regarding their concerns about the impact the construction projects might have on the environment. He says the state needs those corridors.
“We need to have this infrastructure,” Galvano said. “But we also have to have access to our rural communities.”