OUR VIEW: DeSantis should have vetoed “toll roads to nowhere.”

destruction urban sprawl In: OUR VIEW: DeSantis should have vetoed “toll roads to nowhere.” | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Urban Sprawl

 

Whoa.  Another post on the toll road fiasco?  Haven’t we seen enough of those lately?

No, we haven’t.  It is just beginning and it will be a long, hard fight.  This is a big deal, the biggest to come in along time.

This is about the final destruction of Florida, the paving over.  This will be like Highway 200 around Ocala, stop light after stop light, fast food after fast food, gas stations, movie theaters.

Uncontrolled sprawl.  Quick bucks and pave it over.

No more gopher tortoises, barred owls, turkey and deer.  No more green pastures, wetlands and countryside.

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, do me a favor and I’ll help you.

This is about money and screw everything else.

Get used to it, we will not go away, and we are coming at you.

Read the original article here in the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-


OUR VIEW: DeSantis should have vetoed “toll roads to nowhere.”

The governor turned and opened fire on his own troops. There’s just no other way to put it.

When he was elected, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would be on a “war footing” to protect the state’s fragile and endangered water resources, cleaning up sources of filth and protecting lagoons, springs and the vast underground aquifer that supplies the state with drinking water. For months, he’s been quietly impressing environmentalists with his steadfast adherence to his own declared battle stance.

Friday morning, DeSantis turned and opened fire on his own troops. There’s just no other way to put it.

In a closed-door event, the governor signed legislation that will eventually drive hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of asphalt through some of the state’s most valuable remaining spring and water-recharge area. Three new toll roads will open millions of acres of farmland and forest to easy, profiteering development, further intensifying the demand on the aquifer while crippling its ability to heal itself from the depredations of fertilizer, petroleum products and other pollutants that follow humans wherever they go.

A broad coalition of environmental and civic groups called the legislation initiating the “toll roads to nowhere” the worst threat to Florida’s environment in decades. Many expected DeSantis to veto it with a flourish.

Despite the fact that this legislation was a top priority for some of Florida’s power elite, most notably Senate President Bill Galvano, a veto would have been an easy win for the governor. That’s because these roads are not needed. They will do almost nothing to relieve traffic pressure points. In fact, one of the corridors — which would run about 150 miles north from Citrus County to Jefferson County and stop just south of sleepy Thomasville, Georgia — had traffic planners in that adjacent state scratching their heads. Another toll road of approximately the same length would connect Naples to Lakeland, and there’s a relatively short stretch connecting the Suncoast Parkway to the Florida Turnpike.

With the possible exception of that last 30 miles, it’s hard to imagine, under existing circumstances, that anyone would want to pay to drive on these new roads when there are serviceable, mostly non-congested routes available for free — unless there were new destinations along the way. As has been widely reported, the roads would make it much easier to access currently undeveloped land, including property owned by some of the state’s biggest farming businesses and more than a half-million Panhandle acres owned by Florida’s richest man, Thomas Peterffy, who is a major donor to several Republican officials. (Peterffy also owns a 32,000-acre tract in Highlands County that could be along the final route of the Polk-Collier Road).

In an op-ed distributed to Florida papers last week, Craig Fugate, Florida’s former emergency management chief and head of the Federal Emergency Management Division, offered a weak justification for the roads as potential hurricane evacuation corridors. We ran Fugate’s piece in the interest of fairness, but with his expertise Fugate almost certainly knows that most planners have said expanding existing roads such as Interstate 75 would be the best way to facilitate emergency evacuations (while relieving areas that actually are congested).

In the press release announcing the signing, Galvano described several task forces that will ostensibly work to minimize the impact on the environment, and suggests the roads won’t be built until the studies are complete. But a close reading of the legislation reveals that the skids are already greased; construction on the actual roads is required to begin by 2022.

This legislation could have been DeSantis’ first real defining moment as a true champion for Florida’s environment against the forces of build-at-any cost profiteering. Instead, it’s something worse than surrender; it’s an aggressive attack on his own stated priorities, and a grave disappointment for those who had begun to hope that DeSantis’ rhetoric about protecting water was sincere.

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