New development is the single most destructive thing to Florida’s environment. Bulldozing out new road corridors is totally unnecessary, as our present road system can be upgraded to meet our current and future needs.
This op-ed is now published online on the Gainesville Sun, and will appear in the Sunday hard copy in the “Issues” section. We appreciate Nathan Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun for their faithful and constant environmental work and leadership in our community.
Read the complete article here at this link to the Gainesville Sun.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
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. Florida already has some 700 miles of toll roads, more than any other state, but now we are committed to 300 more.
Three massive projects are on the books: The Southwest-Central Florida Connector goes from Polk County south to Collier County; the Northern Turnpike Connector joins the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Highway; and the Suncoast Connector goes north from Citrus County and ends at the Georgia line in Jefferson County, connecting to nothing in Georgia.
These roads have been proposed several times before by developers who stand to make fortunes, but each time it was shown that they are not needed. As late as 2016, a study concluded they were unnecessary. But last year near the end of the session, Sen. Bill Galvano managed to ram-rod this through the Legislature. Three previous governors quelled similar projects, but Gov. Ron DeSantis took the bait and signed the bill with no public vetting and no supporting data.
I say they were ram-rodded because expenditures of this magnitude are usually decided at the end of years-long studies by the Department of Transportation to determine need, but Galvano pushed this through without consulting the DOT and without planning. No specific routes were identified, and one toll road was slated to end at the Georgia line just south of Thomasville (population 18,537) without Georgia having a clue about Galvano’s plans. The timeline set was for construction to start in 2020 and finish by 2030.
Galvano’s reasons for the roads were to relieve congestion on current highways, facilitate hurricane evacuations, provide 5G internet and boost economies in rural areas. The 2016 study showed that the areas of congestion could be solved by extra lanes in the same corridors, bridges could be raised to accommodate higher floods and economy boosts were not guaranteed.
For example, rural areas along Interstate 10 did not experience greater economies when it was built. And no one can understand why a six-lane road is required to provide internet service.
Our Santa Fe River Inc. board member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson says: “The powers that be in Florida’s government cannot seem to understand that keeping it rural and keeping it protected as rural actually has an economic value.” Florida’s No. 1 product, tourism, was harmed by the ruinous actions of Rick Scott, who wanted development at any cost. Further rural development will hurt tourism even more.
What these roads will bring are jobs for road-builders and asphalt-pavers and internet connection for some. They will also bring traffic congestion, strip malls, movie theaters, fast-food establishments, noise, light and plastic pollution, and millions of people for whom we have insufficient potable water.
This is about the richest man in Florida becoming richer. This is about spineless politicians taking the easy way out and disregarding the will of the people who elected them. This is about politics at its worst, trade-offs and good ole’ boys. This is about money at the expense of everything else.
Jim Tatum is a board member of Our Santa Fe River.