Florida scraps proposed toll road routes for I-75 and others 2022-08-03

Update 2022-08-05: Paused, not stopped: Northern Turnpike Extension toll road 2022-08-05.

It’s good news, but watch out: “Instead, FDOT will look at making improvements along Interstate 75 and possibly other corridors to relieve traffic congestion.”

[No four routes]
No four routes

Nobody has ever demonstrated any need for such a toll road, or for these I-75 “and possibly other” road expansions. The M-CORES committee deliberated for a long time and reported no need. The succeeding plan for four potential routes from Wildwood to US 19 did not dispute that lack of need, but plowed ahead anyway. FDOT said the legislature said (in SB 100) that the Northern Turnpike Extension was “in the strategic interest,” yet the new process would determine a need. It did not.

Instead, county after county passed resolutions opposing those routes. So now we get this welcome change, but it’s not enough. Beware: some form of this project has been proposed off and on since the 1970s, and the forces of development are still aimed at the horse country of Marion, Citrus, and Levy Counties, and onwards across the Suwannee River. Or do you think all that traffic will magically stop in those counties on US 19 or I-75?

The excuses for those four routes in SB 100 were:

Fla. Statutes Section 339.66 (1) The Legislature finds that the provision and maintenance of safe, reliable, and predictably free-flowing facilities to support the movement of people and freight and to enhance hurricane evacuation efficiency is important. It is in the best interest of the state to plan now for population growth and technology changes while prudently making timely improvements to address demand.

But there is hardly any traffic on much of US 19. For hurricane evacuation, it would be less expensive to build better hurricane shelters, and to finance rooftop and community solar and batteries so people would not have to evacuate and would not be without power for weeks after a hurricane.

Note that this section of the law and others added by SB 100 have not been repealed. Yesterday’s change just means FDOT gets to choose different routes, this time with no announced public process.

This part is still law:

Fla. Statutes 339.67 U.S. 19 controlled access facilities.—The department shall develop and include in the work program the construction of controlled access facilities as necessary to achieve free flow of traffic on U.S. 19, beginning at the terminus of the Suncoast Parkway 2 Phase 3, north predominantly along U.S. 19 to a logical terminus on Interstate 10 in Madison County.

Tell me how they’re going to do that without crossing the Suwannee River, and possibly the Withlacoochee River, as well?

This was the first published announcement. Michael D. Bates, Citrus County Chronicle, August 3, 2022, Massullo: State scraps four proposed turnpike corridors,

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has abandoned the four corridors it was considering for a northern turnpike extension and is looking at different options, state Rep. Ralph Massullo told the Chronicle late Wednesday.

Instead, FDOT will look at making improvements along Interstate 75 and possibly other corridors to relieve traffic congestion.

Massullo said he spoke with the FDOT district secretary about the issue and the agency may make it public as early as Friday.

“I shared with him my idea of improving a small portion of I-75 connecting to U.S. 27 and using already developed routes to get to the Suncoast (parkway),” Massullo said.

County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard called this “big news.”

“I’m glad they made the decision,” Kinnard said. “Local governing boards have all come out against (the corridors).”

Kinnard agrees the state should look at improving I-75 and other corridors to relieve congestion.

The four formerly-proposed routes have disappeared off Florida’s Turnpike’s Northern Turnpike Extension web page.

Later stories about this change only mention I-75, not “possibly other corridors”. Which doesn’t change what the law says: FDOT has discretion to choose other corridors. And there’s still no demonstrated need even for expanding I-75.

Jim Ross and Austin L. Miller, Ocala Star-Banner, August 4, 2022, Florida won’t pursue 4 proposed routes for possible northern turnpike extension

We’ve been through this charade before, in 2018. Staff Writer, Ocala Star-Banner, September 7, 2018, Back to square one on I-75,

It was just two years ago that the 21-member I-75 Relief Task Force concluded after nearly a year’s worth of meetings and in-depth study that the state would better serve its citizens if it would expand Interstate 75, as well as other major highways like U.S. 301 and 41, rather than build a new expressway across the breast of rural North Florida. Panel members — elected local officials, transportation experts and environmentalists — worried about disrupting, even destroying the region’s lifestyle, not to mention its increasingly fragile environment.

Despite that thoughtful and lengthy exercise, the Florida Department of Transportation almost immediately decided to reject the Task Force report and proceeded to plan what would become known as the Coastal Connector, a multi-lane superhighway that would connect Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. Adding injury to insult, not only did DOT planners take the proposed road right through all the greenspace and wetlands that Task Force members fretted over, but the proposed route cut smack dab through Marion County’s storied horse country.

Last week DOT Secretary Mike Dew sent a letter to local officials declaring the project “abandoned.” It seems the county and city governments of Marion, Citrus and Alachua counties, their legislative delegations, their business communities, not to mention a dozen or so millionaire (and billionaire) horse farm owners and their lawyers, rising up in united opposition made the DOT realize the error of their ways. And what a doozy of an error.

Sure, that plan was aimed at reaching Jacksonville, not Madison or Monticello. But it was yet another plant to plow through Marion County northwards.

Apparently developers and many Florida legislators look at the horse and spring country of north central Florida and all they see is empty land ripe for development. More development would mean more clearcutting causing more runoff, more water withdrawals lowering spring and river levels, and more lawn fertilizer leaching into springs and rives causing algae blooms. Water is more important.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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One thought on “Florida scraps proposed toll road routes for I-75 and others 2022-08-03

  1. Pingback: Paused, not stopped: Northern Turnpike Extension toll road 2022-08-05 | WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) is Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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