Toll road recommendations draw mixed reactions

Toll road recommendations draw mixed reactions

By Jim Turner | News Service of Florida via WMBB Panama City, Fox 35 OrlandoLake City ReporterTampa Bay Business JournalDaily Business Review

Recommendations approved this week about controversial toll-road projects planned to run through rural areas of Florida drew mixed reactions from two environmental groups that participated in task forces that reviewed the projects.


Meanwhile, 1000 Friends of Florida declared in a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault that the task force reports fail to address measures to keep the roads from fueling urban sprawl in rural areas.

The projects would extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County near the Georgia border, extend Florida’s Turnpike from Wildwood to connect with the Suncoast Parkway, and create a new road linking Polk and Collier counties.

“The failure to protect natural resources and rural communities from the impacts of sprawl leaves the distinct impression that one of the purposes of these highways is to spur new residential development in rural areas, and that purpose is not found anywhere in the M-CORES statute,” said the letter from 1000 Friends, referring to a 2019 law that began work on the projects formally known as Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES.

The letter was signed by 1000 Friends Chairwoman Susan Trevarthen, President Paul Owens, board member Andrew Dickman and past policy and planning director Thomas Hawkins. It noted they support language in the reports demanding that economic feasibility and traffic data be obtained indicating a need for the roads before advancing engineering studies.

But the organization wanted it known the report’s water down or fail to provide adequate safeguards for resources of statewide significance, such as drinking water, in leaving land acquisition at interchanges as a local government issue.

“At the end of the day, we think the directives in the report fall short of the mandate in the statute — and our bottom line — to protect the environment and revitalize rural communities,” the letter said.

Owens, Dickman and Hawkins each served on one of the three task forces.

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Toll road task force meets for last time, finalizes report

Toll road task force meets for last time, finalizes report

By Karl Schneider | Naples Daily News

The task force assigned to the southernmost portion of a statewide toll road system met for the last time Monday to finalize its report to the state Legislature.

“Protecting the environment, to me, is the common denominator through all the decisions needed to be made going forward,” said Penny Taylor, task force member and Collier County commissioner.

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Nature of Things: Still no public mandate for toll road from Polk to Collier counties

Nature of Things: Still no public mandate for toll road from Polk to Collier counties

By Tom Palmer | Special to The Ledger

Now that the task force meetings involving a proposal to build a toll road between Polk County and the Naples area have concluded, it’s time to take stock.

After 14 months of discussion, there’s still no mandate emerging for major new road projects. Instead, there might be only some improvements of the local transportation networks in the study area.

Additionally, local government officials wanted to make sure state road projects they've been trying to get into the state’s work plan aren’t sacrificed to make any legislative-mandated projects happen.

There was also some feeling that if traffic congestion in urban areas is the problem, the state should address that without bringing the problem to rural areas by building new roads where they aren’t needed.

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Florida transportation head says not building controversial toll roads remains possibility

Florida transportation head says not building controversial toll roads remains possibility

By Jeffrey Schweers | Tallahassee Democrat, The LedgerWinter Haven News Chief

The next planning phase for three controversial toll road projects could begin next year, Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault told a group of reporters during a brief news conference Tuesday.

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M-CORES: SWC Corridor Taskforce Rolls Back FDOT’s Vision of Consensus

M-CORES: SWC Corridor Taskforce Rolls Back FDOT’s Vision of Consensus
By Stew Lilker | Columbia County Observer

On Monday, from 9:00 am to 11:07 pm, the South West Central (SWC) M-CORES Task Force met in its final session to agree on a report to send to the Florida Legislature. DOT did not get the stamp of approval it wanted.

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Despite budget crisis, Florida is doubling down on costly and destructive plans

Despite budget crisis, Florida is doubling down on costly and destructive plans

By Nicole Johnson | Fort Myers News-Press

Like so many Floridians facing the current public health crisis, the state of Florida itself is wrestling with a budget shortfall. That shortfall is estimated at $2.7 billion dollars.

Yet, Florida is investing in two major projects that have the potential to jeopardize the very foundation of our economy, which is our environment. These undertakings are 1) unnecessary new toll roads (as part of the M-CORES program) and 2) the state’s assumption (essentially taking on the burden) of the Clean Water Act 404 permitting program for wetland destruction.

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Toll Roads Opposition Minimized, Group Says

Toll Roads Opposition Minimized, Group Says

By Steve Newborn and Jim Turner | News Service of Florida via WUSF Tampa

Excerpt: Jon Bleyer, of the group Progress Florida, said “FDOT is set to release final task force reports by November 15, 2020 and we expect the fact that 93 percent of all public comments were in opposition to M-CORES to be included in those reports. Task force members have a duty to take the public’s overwhelming opposition into consideration as they finalize their report and recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor.”

“They might tell us they got X number of comments concerned about water quality or X number of comments concerned about wildlife,” said Bleyer. “But what they didn't share was the sentiment of those comments. They never shared how many anti-M-CORE or pro-M-CORE comments were received.”

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Thousands of public comments show overwhelming opposition to M-CORES toll-road projects

Thousands of public comments show overwhelming opposition to M-CORES toll-road projects

By Laura Cassels | Florida Phoenix

More than 90 percent of people who commented on proposed construction of three massive toll roads through rural Florida oppose the plan, according to an analysis of the nearly 10,000 comments gleaned from public records…“The people who are against the roads talk about protecting our water and our wild places, habitats for panthers, black bears and numerous birds. They talk about protecting our farms, ranches and our rural way of life,” said Kim Wheeler, founder of Rural Levy Says No Toll Roads.

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Task Force could not agree on need for a giant toll road

Task Force could not agree on need for a giant toll road | By Betsy Calvert | Port Charlotte Sun

It wasn’t a ringing endorsement.

More than 100 task force members, including three from Charlotte County, will meet one more time in October to debate a draft final report on the 330-mile toll road proposed from Collier County to the Georgia border.

The task force for the largest of the three segments, from Collier to Polk counties, will host its final meeting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Tampa Convention Center. It could be the task force’s first in-person meeting after months of virtual meetings its 47 members have called frustrating.

The 30-page reports for the southwest section begins with some uncertainty.

“(The) Task Force was not able to fully address its charge of evaluating the need for and impacts of the Southwest Central Florida Corridor,” the report states on page 2, blaming limited data. “The Task Force did not reach a conclusion ... that there is a specific need for a completely new greenfield corridor on land through the study area to achieve the statutory purpose.”

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Report: Polk-to-Collier toll road shouldn’t plow new path

Report: Polk-to-Collier toll road shouldn’t plow new path By Gary White | The Ledger


LAKELAND--During eight meetings over more than a year, discussions of a toll road terminating in Polk County have focused as much on where it will not go as where it might go.

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