Sign up for final toll road Task Force meetings 2020-10-19

Please register today to comment with in the last M-CORES Task Force meetings Tuesday (Suncoast Corridor) and Wednesday (Northern Turnpike Corridor). You must register online by 5PM the day before each meeting.

Previous public comments overwhelmingly oppose these toll roads, but we need still more comments.

[Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Pie-chart 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001

Please tell the Task Forces to reject their Final Report, because it established no need, yet left it possible for FDOT to continue preparing to build these toll roads. Ask the Task Force to outright reject the Report and instead to report No Build.

After the Florida Governor cut $1 billion from the budget is no time to be wasting tax dollars on toll roads for which their own Task Forces can find no need. In addition to all the damage these toll roads would do to our rivers, springs, and swamps, without need, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, just like Texas SH 130.

Yes, this is yet another deadline after the report comment deadline. But please do also comment to the Task Force.

Suwannee Riverkeeper for WWALS is a signatory of the Join Comment Letter by members of No Roads to Ruin (NRTR), and Suwannee Riverkeeper voted in the unanimous Waterkeepers Florida approval to sign that letter.

NRTR has released a Press Release with analysis showing 93% of public comments so far oppose the toll roads, with only 4% for and 3% unclear. That puts numbers on the massive public opposition that was visible even in the Suncoast Connector Task Force report “summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public”.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001

Rural Florida needs fast Internet service, but no new roads are needed to do that. For hurricanes, better shelters and rural solar and batteries for power afterwards would cost much less and be much more effective than these toll roads.

Please add your comment to the Task Force saying No Build!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Press Release

See also PDF.

For Immediate Release  

October 14, 2020

Contacts : Cris Costello, , 941-914-0421

Carson Mitchell, 352-318-2945,  


M-CORES PUBLIC COMMENT ANALYSIS RELEASED 93 percent of the public says “no” to M-CORES  

TALLAHASSEE –The No Roads to Ruin Coalition (NRTR) held a virtual Zoom press conference today to release the compiled and categorized public comments submitted throughout the FDOT/M-CORES process; something FDOT has refused to do. Consistent with opposition at task force meetings, the public comment is overwhelmingly, 93 percent, opposed to continuing the M-CORES process.

After 15 months of public meetings and collecting public comment in multiple formats for the three M-CORES task forces, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has never provided, to the task force members or the public, a complete record and accounting of public comment submissions. While FDOT has shared a total count of comments received and a tally of broad areas of concern, it has consistently discounted form letters and denied task force members and the public any information related to the sentiments and positions (anti, unclear, pro, etc.) expressed in those public comments.

Multiple public records requests made by a number of different NRTR Coalition partners since last winter produced 9,886 total comments received from FDOT. Once received, a small army of volunteer “comment counters” from across the state engaged in reading through and categorizing each of the comments in order to identify the number of anti-M-CORES, pro-M-CORES, and unclear positions.

Kim Wheeler, Founder of Rural Levy Says No Toll Roads, stated: “Determining the position from each of the comment submissions was actually easy. I wish I could share all the comments with you. They are passionate, reasoned and sometimes angry. The people who are against the roads talk about protecting our water and our wild places, habitats for panthers, black bears and numerous birds. They talk about protecting our farms, ranches and our rural way of life. They are against the toll roads because of the cost, worried more now with the revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people discussed the tourists who come here for our springs, rivers and parks. Many people wrote about the need to repair the roads we have and to consider other means of transportation. There was no legitimate excuse for FDOT to withhold that information from the public or the task force members.”

“What we found, after going through each of the comments submitted between August 2019 and October 7, 2020, is that 93 percent of the public comments were opposed to the M-CORES

program, 3 percent of the comments were unclear, and only 4 percent were in favor,” stated Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist.

“It is pretty clear why FDOT omitted any mention of the public sentiment. With well over ninety (90) percent of comments opposing M-CORES, it doesn't support their public relations   narrative . FDOT has consistently claimed that ‘public participation is vital to the M-CORES process’ but has refused to tell task force members the true extent of public opposition. The M-CORES process has been a sham from the beginning and this just underscores that fact,” said Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director.

“FDOT has gone to great lengths to obfuscate the truth and hide public sentiment. They refuse to share what they have received through public comment, they don’t want to count form letters as public comments, and at meetings, whether in-person or virtual, the public has been made to wait until the very end of the day, after many task force members have already left the building or the virtual space,” said Sarah Younger, Chair of the Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club.

South Florida watercolor artist Kim Heise said, “Enough is enough already. Shut M-CORES down. This proves that everyone knows it is a disaster.”

Bleyer added: “FDOT is set to release final task force reports by November 15, 2020 and we expect the fact that 93 percent of all public comments were in opposition to M-CORES to be included in those reports. Task force members have a duty to take the public’s overwhelming

opposition into consideration as they finalize their report and recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor.”

“Today marks the last day for the public to submit comments regarding the three draft task force reports. Yesterday, a joint letter, signed by 110 organizations and businesses, was delivered to FDOT calling for a “No Build” decision from the task forces, FDOT, the Governor, and the Legislature, “ said Smart.

October 13, 2020 Joint Comment Letter:  

Graphics:   g  

Comment count:   X8kc/edit?usp=sharing  

10/12/20 FDOT email to Task Force members containing comment files:

Video recording of press conference:   g  

Slides:–DAldgP7wxXEA6iANOQaJ4P/view?usp=sharing   Background:

In 2019, the Florida state legislature passed SB 7068 to authorize the design and construction of   330 miles of new toll roads through the heart of rural Florida. If built, these new toll roads will   destroy large swaths of Florida’s last remaining rural lands and communities, pollute waterways,   and threaten endangered wildlife, including the iconic Florida panther.  

The bill creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) was   signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 17, 2019, despite a veto request from over 90   organizations and businesses from across Florida ( link ).  

The No Roads to Ruin Coalition, devoted to stopping the unneeded and costly plan for 330 miles   of new toll roads across the state, was launched in August 2019 and is now 98 organizations and  b usinesses strong. The No Roads to Ruin Coalition Steering Committee includes representatives   from the Center of Biological Diversity, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida  

Conservation Voters, Florida Springs Council, Progress Florida, Save the Manatee Club, and   Sierra Club.  


Joint Comments

See also PDF.

October 13, 2020

Kevin J. Thibault

Florida Department of Transportation

605 Suwannee Street, MS 54

Tallahassee, FL 32399

Via online portal and  

RE: Joint Comments regarding Central-Southwest, Northern Turnpike, and Suncoast  Connector Corridor Draft Task Force Reports (M-CORES)

Secretary Thibault:

SB 7068 and section 338.223, Florida Statutes, charge each of the Task Forces to evaluate their  respective Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program corridors. The  Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the respective Task Forces, ultimately failed to  provide comprehensive forecasts for future population, environmental and land use impacts,  employment, traffic, and usage rates at the level of detail needed to warrant the continuation of the M CORES program.

The work that FDOT failed to share with Task Force members was taken on by outside analysts. Using  FDOT’s “economically feasible” framework and 500 simulated model trials, Cornell Consulting’s  financial underwriting analysis (see here ) found all of the M-CORES connectors to be financially  infeasible.

Cornell Consulting estimated construction alone to be $10.3 billion for the three new toll roads.  Meanwhile, in assessing the economic impact of toll roads, they found that the average rate of return for  highways today are diminishing compared to early periods and are simply not worth the cost.  

FDOT has not provided reliable robust traffic information to validate the need for these proposed toll  roads through rural Florida that would address problems the existing FDOT work plan is not already  aiming to solve. FDOT claims that increasing road capacity will reduce congestion are unfounded; in  

fact, examples abound from Florida and elsewhere of additional or widened highways leading to more  rather than less congestion.  

Broadband is a necessary utility that does not depend on the construction of new roads . In assessing  broadband deployment, Cornell Consulting identified aerial fiber optic cable installation as a more  efficient method of connecting underserved communities within the M-CORES study areas. Their  projections saw that aerial fiber optic cable installation could be achieved for a fraction of the cost.  

While hurricane preparedness is necessary, the Florida Division of Emergency Management states on its  website: “Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or  at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter  location.” Encouraging Floridians to attempt to outrun a hurricane is contrary advice. It has been over  ten (10) years since a comprehensive statewide hurricane evacuation plan has been completed; a  prerequisite before any new roads are proposed with the stated purpose of aiding in hurricane

evacuation. Any funding for broadband deployment or hurricane preparedness now part of the M CORES budget should instead, through legislative action, be directed to the local governments or state  agencies actually tasked with providing those services. Providing these services should not be tied to the  development of new roads, as suggested in FDOT’s definition of “no build.”

In order for the goal of restoring and protecting Florida’s beleaguered water resources, including its  springs, lakes, rivers, bays, and the Everglades to be achieved, it is imperative that no road project  directly or indirectly impede or otherwise impact current or future restoration activities. Florida’s state  waters are in crisis already.  

The locations of all three M-CORES corridors are contrary to the protection and acquisition of state  conservation lands critical to the preservation of the state's remaining wild lands, for the people who  explore them and the wildlife that depends upon them. Highways fragment wildlife habitat and  collisions with vehicles are among the top causes of wildlife mortality. The science is clear regarding the endangered Florida Panther – additional fragmentation of remaining habitat will imperil their existence.  On the other hand, protecting umbrella species like the panther and the Florida Black Bear will thereby  protect other listed and non-listed species as well.  

These proposed corridor study areas encompass huge swaths of Florida’s agricultural land base. These  ranchlands are indispensable to maintaining connectivity among existing conservation lands, many of  which have been proposed for protection as approved Florida Forever projects and/or Rural and Family  Lands projects. Agriculture’s contribution to Florida’s economy is second only to tourism and is at risk  from these proposed corridors.

Floridians deserve the choice to enjoy the quality of life and natural beauty afforded in rural  communities. Rural Florida residents and local governments are rightly concerned about the impact of  toll roads on existing local businesses and their iconic way of life. History has shown that toll roads will  either bypass historic downtowns altogether or replace them with mega gas-stations, fast food chains,  and sprawl. Nothing in the reports, or in recent Florida history, provides any assurances that these fears  are not warranted.

Any transportation capacity, operational or safety deficiencies within the state’s transportation system  should first be met by improvements to existing transportation corridors. This is reflected in the draft  task force reports, all of which express a preference for improvement or expansion of existing roadways  and consideration of a “no build” option for the proposed M-CORES corridors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to prioritize human health and welfare in Florida;  the priority should be responding to critical state needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Siphoning billions of dollars from the state budget and directing FDOT to study and build these toll  roads has already taken resources away from legitimate, identified state projects and must be stopped  before more tax dollars are wasted. A delay of a "no build" decision until the Project Development and   Environment (PD&E) study phase and continued funding of the M-CORES program would be an   astronomical waste of taxpayer dollars, and contrary to the wishes of an overwhelming majority of   Floridians. M-CORES would dramatically strain the state budget while Florida is facing massive  revenue shortfalls. We have already witnessed this: Governor DeSantis vetoed $1 billion from the state  budget – including $83 million for critical water quality projects – while the M-CORES project budget  was increased.

SB 7068 in no way requires that any new toll road be built for any segment, let alone all segments of the  three study areas. FDOT’s normal systematic approach to planning for the state’s transportation future  had not, prior to the passage of SB 7068, identified a factual, objective specific transportation problem   to be solved by any of these roads. The M-CORES process, a failed attempt to bypass the state’s normal  transportation planning process, has neither evaluated nor identified any such factual, objective specific   transportation problem to be solved .  

In order to protect Florida’s taxpayers, environmental assets and resources, and preserve areas providing  habitat for plants and wildlife, rural lands, the agriculture industry, and the quality of life of our citizens,  the only reasonable outcome of the three task force processes is a clear "no build" recommendation.

Respectfully submitted,

Action Coalition of Cedar Key  

Mandy Offerle, Member  

Alachua Audubon Society

Debra Segal, President

Alachua County NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice

Nkwanda Jah, Chair

Alianza for Progress

Marcos Vilar, President

Animal Defenders International

Christina Scaringe, General Counsel

Apalachee Audubon Society

Donna Legare, President

Bay and Reef Company

Elizabeth Jolin, Co-Owner

Bear Warriors United

Katrina Shadix, Executive Director

Broward Climate Alliance

Steve Jens-Rochow, Secretary

Allie Preston, Director of Communications

Calusa Waterkeeper

John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife  

Pascha Donaldson, Vice President  

Cedar Key Community Garden  

Many Offelre, Garden Director  

Cedar Key News  

Frank Offelre, Editor  

Center for Biological Diversity

Jacki Lopez, Florida Director  

Center for Earth Jurisprudence

Margaret R. Stewart, Esq., MPA, LL.M., Director

Citizens Against Nonconcurrency Taskforce, Inc. Barry J. White, President

Citizens for an Engaged Electorate

Drollene P. Brown, Co-founder

Coalition of Immokalee Workers  

Lucas Benitez  

Common Ground Florida

Lisa Perry, State Director

Concerned Citizens of Bayshore Community, Inc. Steve Brodkin, Vice President/Secretary

Conservancy of Southwest Florida

Julianne Thomas, Senior Environmental Planning Specialist  

Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County

Pam Harting, Vice President

Cultural Arts Coalition

Dr. Anthony Greene, President

Cypress Cove Conservancy

Shane Duff, President

Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DECF)   Janelle J. Christensen, PhD, MPH, President


Tania Galloni, Managing Attorney, Florida Office

Environment Florida

Jenna Stevens, State Director

Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida Becky Ayech, President

Everglades Law Center

Lisa Interlandi, Executive Director

eYes on Conservation 20/20

Barbara Manzo, Chair

Farmworker Association of Florida

Dr. Antonio Tovar, General Coordinator  

Florida Bay Forever

Emma Haydocy, Executive Director

Florida Conservation Voters

Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director  

Florida Defenders of the Environment

Jim Gross, Executive Director

Florida Oceanographic Society  

Mark D. Perry, Executive Director  

Florida Policy Institute

Sadaf Knight, CEO

Florida Public Interest Research Group (Florida PIRG) Matt Casale, Environment Campaigns Director

Florida Rights of Nature Network

Chuck O’Neal, Chairman

Florida Springs Council

Ryan Smart, Executive Director

Florida Veterans for Common Sense Inc.  

Gene Jones, President

Florida Voices for Animals

Myriam Parham, President

Florida Wildflower Foundation

Lisa Roberts, Executive Director

Florida's Nature Coast Conservancy

Jim Wortham, Vice President

Friends of Chassahowitzka

Ben Berauer, President

Friends of Lower Suwanee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges   John McPherson, President  

Friends of Split Oak Forest  

Valerie Anderson, President  

Friends of the Everglades

Eve Samples, Executive Director

Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge

Nick Lefkow, President

Friends of the Wekiva River

John Pottinger, President

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs

Juliette Jones, Director

Goodwin Lumber Company, Inc.  

Carol Goodwin, President  

Green Horizon Land Trust Inc.

Marian Ryan, President

Hands Along the Water  

Samantha Gentrup, Executive Director  

Healthy Gulf

Christian Wagley, Coastal Organizer

Hillsborough County – Democratic Environmental Caucus of FL   Russell Conn, Chair

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Kate MacFall, Florida State Director

Indivisible St Johns FL

Mary Lawrence, Founder

Institute for Regional Conservation  

George Gann, President  

International Dark Sky Association Florida Chapter Diana Umpierre, Chair

Jefferson Against the Toll Road  

Mike Willis  

Jefferson Progress and Preservation Committee   Michele Arceneaux, President  

League of Women Voters of Florida

Patti Brigham, President

League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County   Emily Hinsdale, Transportation Committee Chair  

Lee Future

Donald F. Eslick, Founding Member

Main Street Motor Parts, Inc., Lutz, FL Barbara Fite, President


Glenn Compton, Chair

Martin County Conservation Alliance

Thomas P. Bausch, Member, Board of Directors

Miakka Community Club

Sarah Lewis, Vice President

Miami-Dade Democratic Environmental Caucus   Dustin Thaler, Vice President  

Mountain Lion Foundation

Debra Chase, CEO

National Parks Conservation Association   Melissa E. Abdo, Ph.D., Regional Director, Sun Coast  

National Wildlife Federation  

David Muth, Director, Gulf Restoration Program  

Natural Resources Defense Council

Alison Kelly, Senior Attorney


Adam Sugalski, Executive Director

Our Santa Fe River

Michael Roth, President

Paddle Florida

Bill Richards, Executive Director

Peace River Audubon Society  

Bren Curtis, Conservation Chair and Board Member  

Pelican Island Audubon Society

Richard Baker, Ph.D., President

Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida Marybeth Dunn, MPH, Executive Director

Progress Florida

Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director

Rainbow River Conservation

Burt Eno, President

Ralf Brookes, Attorney

Rebah Farm

Carol Ahearn, Owner

ReThink Energy Florida

Kim Ross, Executive Director

Ridge Audubon  

Sandy Madden, President  

Rum 138

Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Owner

Rural Levy Says No Toll Roads

Kim Wheeler, Founder

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation James Evans, Environmental Policy Director

Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society  

Karl Werner, Treasurer  

Sarracenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society   David Roddenberry, President  

Save Orange County, Inc.  

Kelly J Semrad, Vice Chair  

Save Our Creeks

Carole Fields, Vice President

Save the Manatee Club

Pat Rose, Executive Director

Sea Turtle Conservancy

David Godfrey, Executive Director

Sierra Club

Cris Costello, Senior Organizing Manager

Silver Springs Alliance, Inc.

Chris Spontak, President

South Florida Wildlands Association

Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Speak Up Wekiva!

Chuck O’Neal

Springs Eternal Project

John Moran, Co-Director

Stonecrab Alliance

Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder

The Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute   Robert L. Knight, Ph.D., Executive Director  

United Waterfowlers-Florida, Inc.  

Dennis Dutcher, Chairman of the Board

Vantage Point Network (VPN) Systems Inc. Suzanne Suor and Edward W. Suor, Partners

W.A.R., Inc. (Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration) Dan Hilliard, President

Waterkeepers Florida  

Jen Lomberk, Esq., Vice-Chair  

WWALS Watershed Coalition

John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

Young Leaders for Wild Florida

Oscar Psychas, Co-leader

100 Thousand Poets for Change  

Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, Founders  

625 NW Santa Fe Blvd., LLC*

Mike and Judi Kearney, Co-owners