Environmentalists say new toll road would threaten Florida panthers

Tampa Bay Times | Environmentalists say new toll road would threaten Florida panthers

By Zachary T. Sampson

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A major toll road project would worsen an already bad situation for endangered Florida panthers, according to a report released Tuesday by The Nature Conservancy in Florida, which reasserts environmentalists' opposition to the highway expansion.

Calling the road an “existential threat” to panthers, Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, said in a statement Tuesday: “We continue to provide science-based input to the toll road task force, in an effort to identify the potential catastrophic impacts to nature that this road could have.”

“Wildlife crossings certainly are a tool for reducing the impact of roads, but the bigger loss we think would be from loss of habitat,” said Janet Bowman, senior policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “Wildlife crossings don’t prevent that.”


Proposed Toll Road Would Harm Florida Panthers, Report Says

Proposed Toll Road Would Harm Florida Panthers, Report Says

By Jessica Meszaros

WUSF Tampa, WJCT Jacksonville

Florida panther roaming sandy grass at night.

A study says the road planned between Polk and Collier counties would undo all the progress that has been made in the past 25 years for endangered Florida panthers by state and federal agencies.

The Nature Conservancy, an advocacy group, commissioned the report, which was authored by former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife ecologist Randy Kautz.

Click here to view the full report.


Still no answers from task forces looking into proposed Florida toll roads

Still no answers from task forces looking into proposed Florida toll roads
By Jeffrey Schweers

Tallahassee DemocratMore than a year after convening, the three toll road task forces charged by the Florida Legislature to evaluate and make recommendations on the state’s most ambitious public works project in decades still have no answers to fundamental questions.

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier speaks at the Collins Building in Innovation Park where it was announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce is awarding a $10.2 million grant to the Leon County Research and Development Authority which will help fund a new 40,000 square-foot, high-tech business incubator Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

"For a lot of us sitting on the task force we feel like we should have looked at the transportation needs in general, and all of these other aspirational targets, broadband, workforce, things like that ... and then looked for solutions," Dozier said. "I don't question the long-term planning but I question the suggestion that a toll road is needed before we go through this exercise."

Read more. 


Analysis: 3 planned toll roads, including project from Polk to Collier, not fiscally feasible

Analysis: 3 planned toll roads, including project from Polk to Collier, not fiscally feasible
By Gary White | The Ledger

The analysis included 500 simulations for the three roads, using a range of variables for each, and found none met a key financial marker.

“M-CORES is a financially risky project with a significant price tag and little data demonstrating a true transportation need,” the Cornell analysis said. “Furthermore, the proposed corridors run through highly sensitive environmental areas, run the risk of encouraging sprawl in communities that do not want it, and during COVID-19 have reduced demand.”


Naples Daily News | New study refutes benefits of 3 proposed toll roads in Florida

New study refutes benefits of 3 proposed toll roads in Florida
By Karl Schneider
Naples Daily News

Cornell Consulting, a student-run group out of Cornell University, concluded the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, known as M-CORES, will not benefit hurricane evacuations, traffic congestion or broadband access. The group also found the toll road project would create negative economic returns.

“We can summarize this as a gross misuse of funds that will cause a financial strain for (the Florida Department of Transportation),” said William McGrath of Cornell Consulting.

FDOT lists a myriad of potential benefits M-CORES could provide on its website, and more efficient hurricane evacuations is listed at the top. The consulting group, however, concluded that using contraflows, or opening all highway lanes to move away from a hurricane’s path, would be a better option if done efficiently.

“The premise that M-CORES will reduce congestion and aide in evacuation ignores quicker and cheaper alternatives,” consultant Justin Zhang said. “What we found was the efficiency of contraflows is really dependent on the number of initiation and termination points. And in the past, Florida hasn't really been using those points efficiently.”

Aerial access would also reduce any impacts to Florida’s wetlands and waterflow areas, consultant Gayatri Sriram said. These rural communities rely on above-ground power lines for electricity, and attaching a fiber optic cable to existing conduits could be the easier option.

“If Florida wants to improve access to data, I say go for it, but don’t be foolish,” she said.  “There is a cheaper, eco-friendly option to deploy broadband and improve local economies.”


FDOT FAILS TO PROVIDE CRITICAL M-CORES DETAILS: Cornell Consulting Fills the Void

For Immediate Release

September 16, 2020 

Contacts: Michael McGrath, michael.mcgrath@sierraclub.org, 386-341-4708

Julianne Thomas,  JulianneT@conservancy.org, 239-293-7460

Ryan Smart, smart@floridaspringscouncil.org, 561-358-7191

** PRESS RELEASE**

FDOT FAILS TO PROVIDE CRITICAL M-CORES DETAILS: Cornell Consulting Fills the Void

FT. MYERS -- A collaboration between the No Roads to Ruin Coalition Steering Committee and Cornell Consulting, a student-run management consulting firm and the leading consulting organization at Cornell University, resulted in a series of three new policy reports authored by Cornell Consulting analysts and released today, that answer questions relating to the fiscal feasibility (or lack thereof), economic and environmental impacts, traffic congestion, and hurricane evacuation issues the M-CORES (Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance) project has raised but have remained unanswered by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

At a virtual press conference, Michael McGrath, Sierra Club Organizing Representative, joined Sadaf Knight, Florida Policy Institute Chief Executive Officer and Cornell Consulting analysts Gayatri Sriram, Justin Zhang, William McGrath, Evan Tong, and Lucien Wostenholme to summarize the report findings — which include alternative solutions independent of road construction.  Julianne Thomas, Conservancy of Southwest Florida Senior Environmental Planning Specialist, joined the panel to answer questions from both the press and the public.  Over 40 “No Build” activists from around the state joined the event via Facebook Live and Zoom.

The bottom line that emerged from Cornell Consulting’s analysis is that M-CORES is infeasible, creates negative returns, and therefore fails to meet its goals.  However, alternative strategies could achieve success. 

Cornell Consulting’s data-driven analysis fills the void left by FDOT and the failed M-CORES Task Force processes and offers further support for the “No Build” option that has been demanded by the public since day one of the series of task force meetings which began in August 2019.  M-CORES task force members have requested, repeatedly, that the “No Build” option be discussed in detail but FDOT has ignored those requests. 

Sadaf Knight, Florida Policy Institute Chief Executive Officer stated:  “The revenue needed to fund this project — $1.7 billion in state funding and total construction costs of $10.3 billion — should instead be used to bolster the state budget and preserve public services. This is especially true given that the analysis performed by Cornell Consulting found that the M-CORES project will fail to deliver on its promised outcomes, and that it will be fiscally unsound and cause environmental harm.”  See full statement here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yEJtUHk6OKV1urEZs1jgnbbZIVnS-Yxo/view?usp=sharing 

The three reports and accompanying slide decks have been sent to the members of all three task forces and FDOT staff.

Go here for links to all three reports and the full array of slides produced by Cornell Consulting:  http://noroadstoruin.org/white-papers/

Go here for Zoom recording:
https://bit.ly/32AmQ8N

Go here for entire Facebook Live event:  https://www.facebook.com/110977273719441/videos/709208949807039 

BACKGROUND:  Since launching the task force process in August 2019, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition (NRTR) has played a key role in public outreach and government accountability. The toll road task forces are expected to release a final report to the Governor, Legislature, and FDOT by Nov. 15, 2020. The NRTR coalition recommends the ‘No Build’ option. Go to http://noroadstoruin.org/ for more information on the 95 coalition partners and their cause.

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The Guardian | Florida accused of push for ‘roads to nowhere’ under cover of pandemic 

The Guardian | Florida accused of push for ‘roads to nowhere’ under cover of pandemic 

 in Miami

Opponents of Florida’s largest highway construction project in decades say officials are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to advance three new unwanted toll roads that would destroy more than 50,000 acres of rural landscape and pave hundreds of miles through ecologically fragile wetlands and wildlife corridors.

A diverse coalition of opposition groups fighting the state’s so-called m-cores project insists the 330 miles of new highways planned for south-west, central and north Florida at an estimated cost of $26.4bn are not needed, and wanted the process halted at least until in-person public hearings could resume to evaluate the proposals.

“If there’s no demonstrated need, no demonstrated economic or environmental feasibility, a threat to agricultural production, threats to wildlife and water resources, a threat to Florida’s iconic small-town character, you pile these threats one on top of another and it’s common sense there’s overwhelming opposition,” Cris Costello (Sierra Club) said.


Columbia County Observer | M-CORES: Proposed New Toll Roads Threaten Rural Florida and is a Bad Deal for Floridians

Columbia County Observer | M-CORES: Proposed New Toll Roads Threaten Rural Florida and is a Bad Deal for Floridians By Lindsay Cross

Excerpt: “A prudent person looks first for a strong and secure foundation upon which to build a house. This process is attempting to slap together a McMansion on a sinkhole. Floridians overwhelmingly are against these Roads To Ruin. Nobody has demonstrated that the roads are needed or that we can pay for them. Task Force members should not sign onto a consensus report unless it includes “No Build.””


ampa Bay Times | Kill these 3 toll roads to nowhere before they do real harm

Tampa Bay Times | Kill these 3 toll roads to nowhere before they do real harm By Richard Grosso

The Florida Legislature should put a stop to the unnecessary, unaffordable and destructive proposal to add three major new toll roads to the Florida Turnpike System. These projects, dubbed “Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance,” or M-CORES, threaten the fiscal viability of our existing transportation system. No study shows new toll roads are needed or are economically beneficial. New roads will almost certainly pave over some of the last remaining natural and rural regions of Florida, priming those areas for development and environmental destruction.he Florida Legislature should put a stop to the unnecessary, unaffordable and destructive proposal to add three major new toll roads to the Florida Turnpike System.

Read more. 


Orland Sentinel | New toll roads pose a threat to a less spoiled part of Florida

Orland Sentinel | New toll roads pose a threat to a less spoiled part of Florida By Temperince Morgan

Excerpt: The springs, rivers, estuaries, forests and farms of the Nature Coast are priceless resources that distinguish this region of our state from the congestion and overdevelopment of peninsular Florida. Building major toll roads through this sensitive landscape threatens the unique character of The Other Florida.

Read more.