Task Force Meetings Will Plan For New Highways In Florida
Last year, without much public notice or debate, the Florida Legislature greenlighted the development of three new highways in the state.
This week, task force meetings are being held to determine their exact routes. It will be a chance for stakeholders to offer input, or plead that they not be built at all.
Proponents of the the Suncoast Connector, Northern Turnpike Connector and Southwest-Central Florida Connector say they will revitalize rural communities. Opponents say they will ruin what little rural and agricultural land is left in the state and destroy much of the last remaining habitat for wildlife.
Detractors have said the roads are not necessary and they are being built for landowners who would profit from development. State Senate President Bill Galvano, who pushed for the roads, has said that Florida absorbs 900 new residents a day and must get ahead of the influx.
Task force meetings about the "Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance," or M-CORES, are being held today in Fanning Springs and tomorrow in Moore Haven.
Lobbyists have been hyping the roads. Sally Patrenos, president of an industry group called Floridians for Better Transportation, said in a statement, “Mobility of people, goods and services is the very lifeblood of this thriving state, and ensuring that our infrastructure is keeping pace with continued growth is essential for this and future generations of Floridian."
The No Roads to Ruin coalition, made up of 55 member organizations and businesses, say that these highways had not been called for in the state Department of Transportation’s long-term plans. Residents of a small town called Alva (population 2,500) have said they want their town to remain quiet, while the town council in Greenville (population 843) voted on a resolution in support of the highways.
A post on the South Florida Wildlands Association Facebook page today says, "Florida panthers and black bears and foxes and otters and white-tailed deer and owls and hawks and monarch butterflies and innocent turtles and snakes will die under the wheels of millions more fast-moving vehicles ... Like cancers, strip malls and fast food joints and gas stations and then huge housing developments will spread from each new exit ramp, just as they have done along all the other high-speed highways in our state."
The task force is slated to issue a final report by Oct. 1.