Guest Editorials

August 2020

New toll roads aren’t a priority for Florida
By Sheila Calderon, Greenacres
Palm Beach Post
In a recent Point of View (July 27), a mother advocated for the proposed M-CORES (Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance) toll roads project by saying she would like her children to “live in a world that rebounds economically from the pandemic and is set up for success.” She is misguided. Agricultural land, vital to our state and national food security needs to be protected, not paved over. Florida’s existing infrastructure is crumbling; it is ranked 40th nationwide in overall cost-effectiveness and condition. That should be fixed before spending $117 million on new toll roads.

July 2020

Time for fiscal restraint, not Florida toll roads to nowhere
Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach Daily NewsGainesville SunOcala Star-BannerLeesburg Daily CommercialSarasota Herald-TribuneDaytona Beach News-JournalSt. Augustine Record
A bad idea in the best of times, these roadways are indeed particularly questionable at this time of fiscal tightening.

Maybe put toll roads on hold
Port Charlotte Sun
The state should reconsider how fast to move on an expensive plan to build or expand three toll roads from southern Florida north. The Legislature signed off on the toll road plans when we had money. Now, thanks mostly to COVID-19, the state doesn’t have money. Gov. Ron DeSantis is trimming a billion dollars from our budget and only federal aid will keep the state from floundering deeper into the red as tax revenues plummet.

Let’s plan for the future — stop the Legislature’s new toll roads
By Vivian Young
Orlando Sentinel, Chiefland Citizen
Last year, the Texas A&M Traffic Institute reported that Orlando commuters spent an average of 57 hours a year stuck in traffic, with an average “congestion cost” of more than $1,000 a year per commuter.

Governor’s $9B budget includes wins, losses for environment
By Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Island Reporter
Excerpt: Of course, they weren’t all wins for the environment. The controversial M-CORES toll roads were supported both through legislative bills that encourage development through rural areas (SB 7018, State Infrastructure) and through approval of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) five-year plan. The FDOT budget opaquely included $117 million this year for M-CORES planning and consultants for a total of $738 million over the next five years. That amount does not include the actual cost of building the roads, which will be tens of billions or more. The fight to defeat these unnecessary toll roads will continue.

Now is not the time for roads to nowhere
USA TODAY Network-Florida via Naples Daily News, Gainesville SunFort Myers News-PressDaytona Beach News-JournalSarasota Herald-TribunePalm Beach PostSt. Augustine RecordPalm Beach Daily NewsLeesburg Daily CommercialWinter Haven News Chief
Excerpt: Contrast this cutback — which can certainly be defended — with DeSantis’ recent decision to commit more than $700 million to his dream of three fabulous new highways that will take us where almost nobody wants to go. This superfluous toll road project cannot be defended, and if ever there were a time to pack such an overweening gambit on ice, that time is now. “A toll road to nowhere is not going to benefit anyone in 2020. It just isn’t,” Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, told the Tampa Bay Times.

Toll-road boondoggle speeds along
By Tom Palmer
The Ledger
The pandemic hasn’t slowed down the efforts to sell the public on the alleged benefits of a group of new toll roads that would stretch from the edge of the Everglades to the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Stop Unneeded Toll Roads in Florida
Staff Report
Florida Veterans for Common Sense
Florida Veterans for Common Sense (FLVCS) calls on the State of Florida to stop its plans to construct three unneeded toll roads. FLVCS is a non-profit organization whose mission is to shape local, state, and national policies which impact veterans, their families, and the communities in which they live. So, FLVCS takes it as its duty to speak out on unnecessary roads that are unwanted and will damage the environment

June 2020

Questionnaire: Perry Thurston, candidate for state Senate District 33
By Perry Thurston
Special to the Sun Sentinel
Excerpt: State budget: Given the impact of the coronavirus on the state’s general revenues, how would you approach the tough budget choices ahead?…We should approve, regulate and tax recreational marijuana, and we should revisit the funding for the M-CORES toll roads.

New roads being pushed at worst possible time
By Jim Tatum
Gainesville Sun, Daytona Beach News-JournalThe LedgerFlorida Times-UnionSarasota Herald-TribuneOcala Star-BannerSt. Augustine RecordLeesburg Daily CommercialPalm Beach Daily News
Many taxpayers may not know that a few men in Tallahassee have decided on the spur of the moment to commit us to years of debt to the tune of billions, for new roads that we have already established that we don’t need.

May 2020

Three reasons to stop new highways from being built
By Sadaf Knight
Orlando Sentinel
The scope of the forthcoming recession caused by COVID-19 is jarring: More than 1 in 5 working people in Florida have filed for unemployment.

Restarting economy by weakening water quality, growth management a bad idea

Ryan Orgera and Rob Moher

Fort Myers News-Press

Excerpt: Despite the massive complexity and costs, the state is moving forward with its plans to take on the Clean Water Act 404 permitting program from the Army Corps of Engineers, meaning that permits for the destruction of wetlands will be fast-tracked.  This is particularly concerning as we face three massive toll roads through some of our state’s most important wetlands. These roads, if realized, will have terrible effects on our water quality — the last thing we should do is fast-track wetland destruction permits.

Hellooooo: FL needs visionary leadership, not boneheadedness

By Diane Roberts

Florida Phoenix

Excerpt: Here’s an idea: how about the state nixing those utterly unnecessary and environmentally disastrous toll roads nobody wants or needs? OK, the Florida Chamber of Commerce wants them, plus the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association, and some Trump-buddy landowners who would make out like the bandits they are, but the people of Levy, Jefferson, and other rural counties prefer the woods and the springs to fast-food joints and traffic. The roads are likely to cost around $10 billion. Think how far that kind of money would go to buy conservation lands, which would, in turn, protect our ailing springs and wetlands.

April 2020

Wonder if voters would approve of toll road

By Tom Palmer

The Ledger, Winter Haven News Chief

I wonder how many people challenging incumbent members of the Florida Legislature will make approving or repealing this boondoggle a campaign issue.

Planned M-CORES highways solve problem that isn’t there

By Tim Jackson

Orlando Sentinel

Florida’s governor and Legislature have started the process of funding three major new highways which will cut across a vast swath of the state’s rural areas — all with the purpose, as outlined by the secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, of meeting the needs of our growing population.

With COVID-19-related budget cuts looming, Florida should kill budget-busting road projects

By Susan L. Trevarthen

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Though the ink is barely dry on the budget that the Florida Legislature approved last month, it’s increasingly apparent that an extreme makeover will be needed to respond to the shutdown of major sectors of the Sunshine State’s economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shhh! State tries to bury news that $2.3 billion revamp of Interstate 4 is over-budget, behind schedule(Note: though not directly related to M-CORES, this column provides an indicator how actual costs may well end up far exceeding current projections).

By Scott Maxwell

Orlando Sentinel

I’ve been in the news business long enough to see plenty of politicians and bureaucrats try to bury bad news.

End toll-road boondoggle


The Ledger, Gainesville Sun, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Ocala Star-Banner, St. Augustine Record, Palm Beach Daily News, Winter Haven News Chief, Leesburg Daily Commercial   

The impact of COVID-19 could have Florida’s economy reeling for a long time to come. Tax revenue will be down. The state budget will be stretched to the point of snapping. Hard — even cruel — decisions will be made.

March 2020

Florida doesn’t want these toll roads to ruin

By Lindsay Cross

Tampa Bay Times

The process to vet and approve three proposed toll roads (known as M-CORES) through rural Florida has, thus far, been an exercise in what not to do.

February 2020

Nature of Things: Toll road plan still woefully short on details

By Tom Palmer

The Ledger

The legislative-mandated effort to create a new highway through southwest Florida from Lakeland to Naples through possibly some of the last wild areas of this state remains long on rhetoric and short on details.

Ten terrible moves by an arrogant Florida Legislature


South Florida Sun Sentinel

Excerpt: Consider the series of bad laws that ruling Republicans rammed through a year ago: three new politically driven toll roads; allowing teachers to carry guns; imposing financial barriers on felons who want to vote; making it harder to gather petitions for ballot initiatives; a legally dubious ban on so-called sanctuary cities; and forcing citizens to pay developers’ legal fees if unsuccessful in challenging proposed land-use changes.

Toll roads threaten to impact Everglades and water for central Florida communities

By Ray Christman

Fort Myers News-Press

“There are no other Everglades.” Those of us in South Florida know all too well what Marjory Stoneman Douglas proclaimed more than 70 years ago. It is a special place well worth protecting. And beginning last year, our state government began again to give attention to this American treasure.

Put the brakes on three proposed Florida toll roads

By Preston Robertson

Palm Beach Post, Port Charlotte Sun

At the end of the 2019 legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed a law that will create three new massive toll roads in what remains of rural parts of the peninsula. These roads were not part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans but were mainly supported by road builders and potential developers.

Florida’s Toll Roads: New Initiatives to an Old Problem?

By George Lorenzo


Florida might be known as the Sunshine State, but pretty soon “sunshine” might be replaced with “toll” if they keep building more roads with these centers.

End not in sight for parkway


Citrus County Chronicle

Cheers greeted the Florida Department of Transportation’s recent announcement to place on hold plans for extending the Suncoast Parkway. If you think the “hold” means the parkway is done, you had better buckle up.

Make the Wekiva Parkway a Model for M-CORES

By Lee Constantine

Port Charlotte Sun

The Wekiva Parkway — a 25-mile, soon-to-be completed expressway in Central Florida — has become the gold standard in our state for how to build an environmentally responsible highway.

Florida Legislature favors political values over family value

By Randy Schultz

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Excerpt: And last year, the priority for Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, was new toll roads. They will get large state subsidies to bring suburban sprawl to rural areas. The Florida Chamber of Commerce is fighting the minimum wage increase but backed toll roads, which will benefit chamber members that build roads and houses.

January 2020

Put the brakes on Florida toll roads

By Preston Robertson

Fort Myers News-Press

At the end of the 2019 legislative session, legislators passed a law that will create three new massive toll roads in what remains of rural parts of the Florida peninsula. These roads were not part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plans but were mainly supported by road builders and potential developers.

Jaclyn Lopez: Stop destructive toll roads in their tracks

By Jaclyn Lopez

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union, Daytona Beach News Journal, St. Augustine Record, Ocala Star-Banner

It’s sad, but hardly surprising news, that more than two dozen panthers were found dead in 2019, including 22 struck and killed by vehicles.

Let us recall the (very bad) year that was in Florida

By Diane Roberts

Florida Phoenix

Excerpt: Which would you rather have, some pristine wilderness, undisturbed wetlands to mitigate storm surges and filter pollutants out of our water, and habitat for the most majestic of creatures, the Florida Panther? Or three big, fat, stinking toll roads tearing through some of the state’s last undeveloped areas?

Don’t preempt local water protections


Gainesville Sun

If Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature won’t do their job in protecting Florida’s natural environment, they shouldn’t stand in the way of local citizens seeking to do it for them.

Nature of Things: Insincerity and hypocrisy in state road planning

By Tom Palmer

The Ledger

The real driver behind Senate President Bill Galvano’s plan for new toll roads in Florida is road-building contracts and real estate commissions. His lip service to long-term planning rings empty.

M-CORES expressway planners must think green

By Lee Constantine

Orlando Sentinel

These improvements could potentially slow down the M-CORES process. But the wealth of resources at risk from the highways — fragile waterways, wetlands, wildlife corridors, working farms and rural communities — are more than worth any extra time and trouble.

December 2019

Three new Florida toll roads are three too many

By Paula Dockery

South Florida Sun Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times

Most Floridians would agree that we all benefit from a system of highways that help move people and goods around the state.

Budget tight? Try cutting toll roads


Daytona Beach News Journal

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021 was released last month and in some ways, it really does live up to its claim of being “the Bolder, Brighter, Better Future Budget.”

Miami-Dade commuters’ tolls will pay for North Florida roads they won’t use

By Tim Jackson

Miami Herald

If you drive on Florida’s Turnpike, here’s something to think about: In a few years, a large chunk of the money you pay in tolls and gas tax is likely to be diverted to build 340 miles of new toll roads through some of Florida’s best remaining rural and agricultural — meaning undeveloped — lands along the state’s west coast.

Three new Florida toll roads are three too many

By Paula Dockery

Tallahassee Democrat

Most Floridians would agree that we all benefit from a system of highways that help move people and goods around the state. Investing in our infrastructure can help create jobs, increase mobility and move people and products.

Toll road project puts economic interests ahead of need

By Julianne Thomas and Meredity Budd

Bonita Springs Weekly

Earlier this year, Senate Bill 7068 created the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance; this bill requires the state to build three toll roads under a short time frame with little direction.

November 2019

A task – but to what purpose?


The Ledger

One of the best known works by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett involves two men waiting beneath a leafless tree for a third character to arrive.

Toll roads are a dead end

By Dale Gillis

Highlands Sun

Excerpt: Senate President Galvano says that putting toll roads through rural counties will spur development. At one hearing, a speaker pointed out that there are many square miles of rural territory adjacent to I-10. The freeway has been there for decades and hasn’t brought development. Will these new toll roads relieve urban congestion? No, they pass through rural and wilderness areas. Florida is rated 40th in the condition of its infrastructure, which includes roads and bridges. You would think the legislature would be more interested in fixing that problem. First, fix the roads we have.

Toll Road Remains On Fast Track – Despite No Route

By Steve Newborn

WUSF Tampa

Three of the biggest road projects ever proposed in Florida are on a fast track, spurred on by state lawmakers.

Nature of Things: Toll road meetings expose the plans’ weaknesses

By Tom Palmer

The Ledger

Two facts emerged from Wednesday’s meeting to discuss the planned toll road that will run from the southern edge of Winter Haven to somewhere in Collier County near Naples.

Turnpike group looks at areas to avoid

By Mike Wright

Citrus County Chronicle via Chiefland Citizen

No one knows yet where Florida’s Turnpike will intersect with the Suncoast Parkway, but a group began the task Tuesday of narrowing down where it shouldn’t go.

Toll road and Next Era Forum

By Lazaro Aleman

ECB Publishing

Excerpt: So why, asked an audience member, was the Suncoast Parkway now coming into Jefferson County? Kiser’s response was that it was essentially a legislator’s prerogative; or more specifically, it was the prerogative of Senate President Bill Galvano, who represents the Manatee and Hillsborough County areas.

Advocates push for Florida Forever funding

By John Kennedy

GateHouse Capital Bureau

Excerpt: Many worry that Florida’s green spaces are steadily disappearing — part of what drove the ballot campaign in the first place. Earlier this year DeSantis signed into law a measure that could lead to the construction of three major new toll roads in Florida — cutting through mostly rural counties home to some of the land environmentalists want saved.

Put brakes on toll roads plan


Gainesville Sun, Florida Times-Union, St. Augustine Record, Palm Beach Daily News, Ocala Star-Banner, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Ledger, Leesburg Daily Commercial

There was little planning done before lawmakers pushed through Florida’s largest highway expansion in 50 years.

A task – but to what purpose?


The Ledger

One of the best known works by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett involves two men waiting beneath a leafless tree for a third character to arrive.

Florida’s leaders love our environment, but they love money more

By Diane Roberts

Florida Phoenix

Excerpt: But in Florida, Nature must be monetized. Our pretend-green governor and the venal characters who run the Legislature now want to ram superfluous toll roads through some of Florida’s last unspoiled wild lands, wreaking havoc on wetlands, forests, and wildlife…The Chamber of Commerce, the asphalt lobby, and rich landowners want these roads. Nobody else does.

Toll Roads Analysis – Detailed Assessment of Impacts on Native Plants and Native Plant Communities

By Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislation Chair

Florida Native Plant Society blog

Have you heard about the “M-CORES Project”? If not, you may want to start paying attention because it will affect communities across much of Florida and will certainly impact native plants and native plant communities.

Take your toll road away from Monticello. Far away

By Merry Ann Frisby

Tallahassee Democrat

Almost everyone has been stuck in barely crawling traffic on I-95 and I-75. In Monticello, a traffic jam is four cars, and we like it that way. However we are all Floridians and it seems stingy not to have sympathy for our fellow Floridians to the south.

October 2019

Citrus, get back in the driver’s seat

By Lindsay Cross

Citrus County Chronicle

Citrus County, you’ve been here before. For decades you’ve debated about toll roads, development, and how to hold onto what’s special about your beautiful piece of Florida.

Avoid another lost decade in climate fight


Gainesville Sun

Excerpt: Legislative decisions such as the authorization of more than 300 miles of new toll roads through rural areas of Florida will only make matters worse. Republicans such as Lee and DeSantis will show whether they are truly serious about climate change by making it a central part of infrastructure decisions.

Guess what: FL Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t exactly a ‘Teddy Roosevelt conservationist’

By Diane Roberts

Florida Phoenix

Excerpt: While the governor calls himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist,” he supports destroying wildlife corridors and wrecking forests and wetlands in some of Florida’s last underpopulated places – Taylor, Levy and Dixie counties – for new toll roads nobody needs or wants. Nobody except the Chamber of Commerce, the asphalt industry and some mega-bucks, Trump-supporting landowners like Thomas Peterffy, the richest man in the state, agrees.

Taking preserve land for bridge sets dangerous precedent as Florida plans new toll roads

By Pam Harting

TC Palm

I recently watched a video by a supporter of Florida Conservation Voters about our public parks and preserves.

Are more toll roads really needed?

By Diane Trembly, North Fort Myers

Fort Myers News-Press

Thank you, Carol Pratt, for your very informed letter (“Toll roads or natural places,” Friday) regarding the proposal to build another north-south toll road. I travel Highway 17 from Punta Gorda to Lakeland fairly frequently. It is an excellent four-lane divided road; you can go 70 mph, and there is never congestion. Yes, there are several small towns you have to slow down for, but other than that, it’s great.

September 2019

Stop investing in the infrastructure of the past

By Emma Turner

Gainesville Sun

Excerpt: The reality of a multibillion-dollar, 10-year toll road plan is that by the time of its completion, its function will become obsolete. As our method of travel adapts to a world without carbon emissions — automobiles become smarter, communities become self-sustainable — roads will adapt in tandem. A cross-state private toll road will become an antiquated relic all too soon. It is simply no longer a viable long-term investment of public funds.

We’re turning our waters into algae factories

By Ron Cunningham

Gainesville Sun, Daytona Beach News Journal

Excerpt: Under the flimsy excuse of providing better hurricane evacuation routes Florida will spend billions for new toll highways which will only further abet the runaway growth and over development that is killing Florida’s environmental integrity.

Task forces should take a close look at Florida’s massive toll road plans


Daytona Beach News-Journal via Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Few people believe Florida’s highway and roadway infrastructure is adequate.

We must up the ante to protect Southwest Florida

By Rob Moher

Bonita Springs Florida Weekly, Sanibel Island Reporter, Fort Myers Beach Reporter

Excerpt: With our natural lands already under siege, the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance toll road additions could be the nail in the coffin to a sustainable Florida. The proposed roads would needlessly devastate Florida’s most remote landscapes, altering both habitat and hydrology.  

Cheers and jeers


Gainesville Sun

Jeer: The state’s process for evaluating three new toll roads, for being stacked in favor of building the highways. The three task forces tasked with considering the roads held their initial meetings Aug. 27. Lindsay Cross of Florida Conservation Voters said the process made it seem “like a foregone conclusion that these roads will be built,” arguing the groups should be looking at the roads’ environmental impact and whether they’re needed.

No no-build option reveals intent of toll roads


Lakeland Ledger; also published in the Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Gainesville Sun, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ocala Star-Banner, Palm Beach Daily News, St. Augustine Record, Panama City News Herald, Leesburg Daily Commercial, Winter Haven News Chief, Crestview Bulletin

Earlier this month a trio of advisory committees tasked with studying various facets of Florida’s biggest highway expansion program in a half-century began their work.

Water quality protections to help Southwest Florida

By Rob Moher

Fort Myers News-Press, Cape Coral Daily Breeze, Naples Florida Weekly, Pine Island Eagle, North Fort Myers Neighbor, Medium

Excerpt: With our natural lands already under siege, the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) toll road additions could be the nail in the coffin to a sustainable Florida. The proposed roads would needlessly devastate Florida’s most remote landscapes, altering both habitat and hydrology.

Nature of Things: Toll road task forces are a sham

By Tom Palmer

Lakeland Ledger

Excerpt: This is the first study process for a new road I have ever witnessed that doesn’t include the “no build” alternative. Instead, this one involves some consensus report that will make it the least bad of any of the other alternatives. No minority report is expected.

August 2019

Task forces can lessen impact of roads
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Few people believe that Florida’s highway and roadway infrastructure is adequate.

Another Viewpoint: With M-CORE studies starting, now’s the time to join the public conversation
By Craig Fugate
Florida Times-Union
Note: This commentary was also published at Gainesville Sun, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Ocala Star-Banner, Lakeland Ledger, Palm Beach Daily News, Winter Herald News Chief, Leesburg Daily Commercial,
Three task forces are getting ready to start the process of studying the feasibility of possible new infrastructure known as Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program.

Want to bet on results of toll road studies? Warning: The deck is stacked.
Tampa Bay Times
August 20, 2019
How convenient: The very groups that will advise the state on new toll roads that nobody asked for and nobody can afford are the same monied interests who stand to make a killing from these publicly subsidized corridors for sprawl.

July 2019 

The DeSantis record: Bold promises clash with cold reality
South Florida Sun Sentinel
July 7, 2019
He foolishly endorsed three new toll roads that will threaten sensitive lands and wildlife…This is not what Floridians said they wanted.

June 2019 

Republican stranglehold turns Florida red
Tampa Bay Times
June 22, 2019
Excerpt: The governor? Former governors rejected a toll road to nowhere that would cut through undeveloped land between Polk County and Collier County. But Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, made three unneeded toll roads his top priority, and DeSantis signed the legislation to pursue those projects.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ arrogant abuse of political power
South Florida Sun Sentinel
June 14, 2019
Excerpt: The toll road bill, Senate President Bill Galvano’s personal pile of pork, is the worst insult to the environment since the ultimately abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal boondoggle of the 1960s. The three projects it authorizes would despoil vast rural lands in North Florida, as well as between Polk and Collier Counties. It serves the needs of no one who isn’t a land speculator, a highway contractor or a politician contemplating a cornucopia of campaign contributions.

Another Opinion: Save Florida’s shreds of growth control
Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union, likely others
June 4, 2019
When Gov. Ron DeSantis put his signature on a bill authorizing three unnecessary, ridiculously expensive “toll roads to nowhere” that would plow across millions of acres of undisturbed land at Florida’s heart, he put his self-claimed reputation as a champion of the state’s fragile, threatened environment in jeopardy.

May 2019

Toll roads to nowhere no good for Florida
Tampa Bay Times
May 17, 2019
A state desperate for a 21st century transportation system featuring cutting-edge mass transit should not waste billions of dollars on toll roads to nowhere.

April 2019

New toll highways will take a toll on rural areas
Gainesville Sun
April 28, 2019
The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that Polk County was among the fastest-growing communities in America.

No pricetag, no routes, bad idea
Ocala Star-Banner
April 28, 2019
The controversial Florida toll road plan that is Senate President Bill Galvano’s top priority this legislative session was approved this week in that chamber by a vote of 37-1. Marion County’s two senators, Dennis Baxley and Keith Perry, voted in favor of the so-called M-CORES, short for Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program.