Not enough data for proposed Florida tolls, reports suggest
Tolls proposed in three regions in Florida by the state’s Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program have been called into question by three draft reports from a commissioned task force.
In September, the Florida Department of Transportation released draft reports from M-CORES’ task force for three corridors: Southwest-Central Florida, Suncoast and Northern Turnpike. The reports address several proposed projects. To pay for the projects, a toll road in each of the three corridors is proposed.
Multiple concerns cited
Although details in each report vary, they all agreed on at least two things. First, no report could commit to fully supporting M-CORES projects. Second, the reports recommend that FDOT consider a “no build” option instead.
The draft M-CORES reports are a setback for lawmakers who support tolls on the corridors.
During open house meetings throughout the year, thousands of public comments were submitted. Topics of concern included environment, equity impacts of tolling, quality of life, and economic opportunity.
Several groups are opposed to M-CORES. Florida Conservation Voters, a group protecting the waters and conservation lands, has been vocally opposed to the toll projects. Lindsay Cross, Florida Conservation Voters’ government relations director, called the process “rushed,” saying M-CORES needs more data and meaningful public input.
“Given the overwhelming public opposition to this project, we expect the outcry against the toll roads to only get louder as more Floridians – faced with the impacts of ongoing global health and economic crises – understand this gross misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Cross said in a statement. “The choice is clear. ‘No build’ is the only viable option to protect what is essential to Floridians: clean water, productive agriculture, wildlife habitat, rural quality of life, and the sound investment of state resources.”
Legislative support remains
Despite opposition from Floridians and reports questioning the need, Senate President Bill Galvano doubled down on the projects.
In a statement, Galvano said stopping the projects could have economic consequences to rural communities as the state recovers from the damages caused by the pandemic. One area the task force had to consider was high-speed internet access in rural communities. LL