February 23, 2022 


Sabrina Watson,, (352) 628-2973

Sally McDavid,, 352-634-2649

Michael McGrath,, 386-341-4708




Inverness—On Tuesday, February 22, the Citrus County Board of Commissioners held a rare evening meeting to hear from its citizens regarding the potential for a new toll road, a northern extension of the Florida Turnpike, that would cut through the region.  The crowds arrived in droves and overwhelmed the Commission chamber, even after it was set up to provide more space than is normally available, sending many attendees into the overflow room.

The throng, estimated at more than 200 people, adorning pink “Rural Florida Says No Toll Roads” stickers and armed with the bright neon “No Build” signs now commonplace at city, county, and Florida Department of Transportation meetings across the region, was enthusiastic.  Speakers eloquently represented all of the reasons the Northern Turnpike Extension is a threat to their homes, quality of life, businesses, and environment of Citrus County.  Chairman Kitchen found it necessary to admonish attendees against raising the “No Build” signs and applauding speakers numerous times, including several “last warnings.”  But the threat of the new toll road, and the devastation it would wreak on the Citrus way of life, had attendees up in arms.

Sally McDavid, of Florida Forever Back Country Horsemen said:  “The greedy politicians, developers, and builders just don’t seem to understand that there is simply no more water, no more rivers, no more springs, no more watersheds, no more farmland, and no more land for recreation.  What we have now is what there is.  It needs to be preserved and protected, not paved over or developed like Orlando.  FDOT has a long history of building toll roads based on projections of feasibility that NEVER even come close!  People will lose their homes and property–some owned for generations.  And, as a fourth generation cracker, the lifestyle we all love and cherish will be gone.  This thing was suspended in 1999 due to lack of support from local governments and the inability for it to pay for itself.  Nothing has changed.”  

Sabrina Watson, Citrus County Airboat Association said, “Lake Hernando park is a gateway to hundreds and hundreds of miles of waterways where there are completely unknown cultures, communities, and ecosystems that would be completely destroyed by a toll road coming through the watershed. Families and visitors alike gather here for outdoor recreation and social activities. Protecting them is important for maintaining Citrus County’s rural traditions and quality of life.” 

“I hope the Commissioners were reading the tea leaves last night because there is no doubt that this road or any toll road for that matter is not wanted, needed, or useful. I’m sure when election time runs around people will remember how the Commission voted when it comes to how they dealt with the Northern Turnpike Extension,” said Pat Wade, a concerned Citrus County resident.

“FDOT has little regard to creating massive scars of destruction across the landscape all in the name of ‘economic development.’  They are part of the problem of loss to our environment, water supply, quality of life and destroying the last of “Old Florida” where I was born and raised.  At one time ‘we the people’ meant something. Today, greed has consumed those words to mean ‘for the connected,’ said Karen Esty, Member of the Hernando/Citrus County MPO Citizens Advisory Committee and Vice Chair of the Planning & Zoning Board for the City of Inverness.

“The attendees were unified and 100% opposed to the Turnpike extension.  Their objections focused on environmental impacts and disruption of the rural nature of The Nature Coast.  If that message is not taken to heart by the County Commission, it will no doubt be reflected in the next election cycle,” said Dan Hilliard, President of Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration (WAR).

Of note was the fact that the Board was presented with a copy of the letter from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to the Director of the Turnpike Enterprise, which stated unequivocally that all proposed routes would impinge on state preserve lands and as a result the Water District could not approve of the proposal.

Local governments can play an instrumental role in representing their resident’s interest in stopping the toll road plans.  The Levy County Board of County Commissioners, Dunnellon City Council, and Inglis Town Commission have already made their positions clear to FDOT by passing “No Build” resolutions. On Tuesday, the Citrus Board of County Commissioners heard from its residents, both loudly and clearly, that they should follow suit. While no resolution decision was made, the Commissioners voted to hold a public workshop on the Northern Turnpike Extension on May 26.   


Chamber (back)

Chamber (front)

Overflow room


In 2019, the Florida state legislature passed SB 7068 to authorize the design and construction of 330 miles of new toll roads through the heart of rural Florida. The bill creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 17, 2019, despite a veto request from over 90 organizations and businesses from across Florida.  While M-CORES was technically repealed in 2021 with SB 100, not all of the threats were vanquished, including the Northern Turnpike Extension. 

The No Roads to Ruin Coalition, devoted to stopping the unneeded and costly plans to cut through rural Florida with new toll roads, was launched in August 2019 and is now 116 organizations and businesses strong.  The coalition’s position on the proposed Northern Turnpike Extension remains “No Build.”