(The Center Square) — Three reports from the task force on the Florida Legislature’s multibillion-dollar tentative plan to build 340 miles of toll roads by 2030 have arrived on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk .
All three include the same statement: “The Task Force has not reached a conclusion based on the information available at this time that there is a specific need for a completely new corridor or modifications to existing facilities across the study area to achieve the statutory objective.”
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) submitted the reports to DeSantis on Thursday, three days before the Sunday deadline set by lawmakers when they created the panels to study the proposed Economically Important Multi-Use Corridor Plan. regional (M-CORES).
The three 40-member committees studied the three proposed M-CORES toll roads for more than a year, but were unable to determine the need for them, citing “a preference for improvement or expansion of existing main road corridors”.
M-CORES describes the construction of:
• A 150-mile southwest-central Florida connector between Lakeland and Naples;
• The Suncoast Connector, a 40-mile stretch connecting the Florida Turnpike and I-75 with the Suncoast Parkway;
• The Northern Turnpike Connector, which would extend the Suncoast Parkway 150 miles north to Georgia.
Construction would begin in 2022 and end in 2030. M-CORES would be funded by revenue from license plate tags – $1.1 billion over a decade to fund a bond; estimates range from $10 billion to over $24 billion.
Lawmakers in 2019 approved Senate Bill 7068which called for the creation of working groups to study the proposal and allocated $45 million for the studies.
SB 7068 authorized $90 million for M-CORES in this year’s budget, $135 million for fiscal year 2022, and $140 million annually through fiscal year 2030, for a total of 1, $1 billion.
However, this money is not guaranteed. Funding must be approved annually. The task force’s recommendations were to be key factors in determining whether M-CORES would be funded.
M-CORES is widely opposed, including by the 80-member No Roads to Ruin coalition, which is led by the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Florida Policy Institute, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and the League of Women Voters.
The coalition said Friday that delivering the reports to DeSantis was “nothing to celebrate.”
“The entire M-CORES process has been flawed and represents a ruthless preference for special interests and developers over what is best for Florida residents,” the coalition said.
During the 15 months of public hearings by the three task forces, the coalition said 93% of 10,000 public comments opposed the projects.
“Spending more time or resources on M-CORES comes at the expense of completing a backlog of water quality and transportation infrastructure upgrades,” No Roads To Ruin said. “Investing in outdated transport and sprawl development models is an irresponsible approach for a state on the front lines of climate change.”
the Southwest-Central Florida Connector Report could not identify a “specific need” for a toll road spanning Polk, Highlands and Collier, but recommended the FDOT “assess infrastructure improvements” in the area.
the Suncoast Connector Report said the task force was “unable to fully discharge its responsibility to assess the needs and impacts” of the proposed toll road that would connect the Florida Turnpike and I-75 in the Citrus and Jefferson counties, although he identified some “high-level needs.” ” for the project.
the North Tollway Connector Report states in its introduction, “Due to the early stage of planning for this corridor and the limited data and analysis on needs and potential impacts available at this time, the task force was unable to perform fully responsible for assessing the needs and impacts of the North Tollway Corridor.