Republican bill to dismantle Florida’s MCORES toll roads project on fast track —

no roads coalition mike In: Republican bill to dismantle Florida's MCORES toll roads project on fast track -- | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
OSFR president Mike Roth speaks at an anti-toll roads press conference in Tallahassee.  OSFR logo top row of poster.  Photo by Jim Tatum.

Hopefully the segment north from Citrus to Madison counties will not be built.  This would open Taylor County for the city which Thomas Peterffy has been wanting to build for years.  A city is the last thing Taylor County needs, and likely Peterffy, richest man in Florida and among the 100 richest in the world, does not need it either.

This segment through rural areas would cause a lot of agricultural lands to be lost, as well as the rural way of life preferred by many.

Read the entire article here in News Press.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
[email protected]
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


Republican bill to dismantle Florida’s MCORES toll roads project on fast track

Senate President Wilton Simpson has said the project was on the chopping block.

Jeffrey Schweers
Capital Bureau  March 1, 2021

State Sen. Gayle Harrell’s bill to repeal and defund the massive public works toll roads project known as MCORES is on the fast track toward approval.

The bill (SB 100) is the first by a Republican to dismantle the signature piece of legislation pushed through by former Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Harrell, of Stuart, filed the bill Thursday and it is already on the Senate Transportation Committee’s calendar for Wednesday. It has just one other committee stop — Appropriations — before it can go to a floor vote, suggesting it has been fast-tracked for approval.

The bill, however, could salvage two projects: The extension of Florida’s Turnpike from where it ends at Wildwood, and turning U.S. 19 into a limited access parkway from its current terminus at Citrus County to Madison County. Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has said he supports the latter concept.

Simpson and other legislative leaders said before this year’s legislative session, which starts Tuesday, that MCORES was one of several big money items on the chopping block as Florida faces a huge revenue shortfall created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But recently, Simpson told the Tampa Bay Times and several other publications that he supports the idea of realigning the Suncoast Parkway with U.S. 19. Gov. Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, preserved $700 million for MCORES in his budget wish list for 2021.

Specifically, Harrell’s bill would repeal the state law that created MCORES, or Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, and repeal funding for the project. It would transfer $35 million to Florida’s Turnpike annually for up to 30 years.

It also would require the Florida Department of Transportation, “in coordination with the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, to evaluate certain roadways for development of specific controlled access facilities and to include such projects in the work program.” The bill also would strike the state’s workforce development program.

Harrell’s bill directs the Depart to begin project development and environmental studies  of the turnpike extension and consider its configuration, alignment, cost and schedule, and submit a report to the governor and legislative leaders by the end of December 2022.

It also calls for thet”> department to develop and include in the FDOT work program “the construction of controlled access facilities … beginning at the terminus of the Suncoast Parkway 2, Phase 3, along U.S. 19 north to a logical terminus at Interstate 10 in Madison County.”

The project is to use as much of U.S. 19 as possible, retrofitting it with limited access alignments and grade separations as an alternative to intersections with traffic signals. “To the maximum extent feasible, the facilities shall be developed no later than December 31, 2035,” the bill said.

All three groups said there was no demonstrated need for the roadways and noted the lack of a fiscal feasibility study to see if the roads would be supported by toll revenue. And all three task forces urged the state to strongly consider the “no-build” option.

Activists have sounded the alarm that the roads would damage environmentally sensitive lands; farmers raised concerns about how their livelihoods would be affected. Small town leaders said it would harm local businesses.

Florida Conservation Voters, an advocacy group, has said it planned to work with other groups to try to convince the Legislature to amend the law creating the roads in the upcoming 2021 legislative session.

Ed. note — This story was updated Monday to clarify additional parts of the legislation not mentioned in an earlier version of the story. 

Jeffrey Schweers is a capital bureau reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.

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