Stop the Destructive Toll Roads

October 7, 2020

Help us stop 140 miles of new toll roads that will destroy wetlands and Florida panther habitat at a cost of more than $3 billion! Please tell FDOT to not waste our taxpayer money destroying rural Florida.

EMAIL FDOT | Potential Talking Points Listed Down Below

The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (MCORES) Program was created in 2019. While there are many stated reasons for this program that sound good, the real motivation behind this unusual legislative driven push for new toll roads, is to add even more sprawling residential development in our rural inland counties and allow a few key landowners to profit significantly from public investments.

There are three corridors identified for this program. The Southwest Central Corridor covers nine counties including the five counties — Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades — where the Conservancy of Southwest Florida focuses our work.

This corridor could stretch from I-75 in Collier County up to I-4 in Polk County, cutting right through the heart of conservation lands, rural agricultural areas, wetlands and wildlife habitat, especially the habitat needed by the endangered Florida Panther.

A majority of Florida panther habitat identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is located in this corridor. The endangered Florida panther needs this land in order to recover and survive. Highways fragment wildlife habitat and collisions with vehicles are an added source of wildlife mortality.

The Southwest Central Corridor study has already spent more than $2 million dollars and has produced little of value. There is no corridor proposed, no actual plans for any project, only a contract to spend up to $50 million on the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study.

The available data shows there is no need for a new road, and that non-tolled improvements to existing roads will solve most, if not all, the potential transportation problems for the next 50 years in the study area.

Broadband availability is certainly a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but it needs to be addressed directly. Cornell Consulting produced a study that shows that for less than $200 million, broadband can be provided for all three study areas. When broadband is available, that will help rural communities choose their own future while providing opportunities to diversify their economies and increase educational opportunities in ways that fit their communities and without new sprawl.

There is no upside to a toll road. Existing facilities should be improved and stay free to use. Broadband and water quality need to be addressed head-on by the appropriate agency, and FDOT is not the appropriate agency

We are asking you to email FDOT by October 14 at 1 p.m. at stating your opposition to the MCORES program and specifically the Southwest Central Corridor. Some possible points for you to include in your message are provided below.

  • Florida is facing serious budget shortfalls due to the COVID pandemic. Please defund and remove MCORES from the statutes. Redistribute the money to existing FDOT projects fixing current problems or to state agencies that can directly address hurricane preparedness, broadband expansion, and improving water quality.
  • A new toll road or tolling existing facilities is not a solution that will move Florida forward. Florida already has more than 700 miles of toll roads; we don’t need more. Please strike MCORES from the statutes and develop innovative solutions to serve all Floridians.
  • COVID19 requires our tax money be utilized effectively. The real problems — lack of broadband in rural areas, the ability to safely shelter in place, increased economic diversity, and improved public health options — need direct action rather than a potential solution as a byproduct of an unneeded toll road grounded in greed and leading to financial and environmental ruin.
  • The endangered Florida Panther will not be able to recover or survive if a new roadway fragments and destroys the habitat they depend on.
  • It is counterproductive to allocate time and resources to improve water quality and restore the Everglades while simultaneously pursuing roadways that will cost millions — if not billions — of dollars and that will counteract water quality and restoration progress. It is vitally important that the guiding principles developed by the task force recognize the importance of improving water quality and Everglades’s restoration, as well as the negative consequences for Florida’s water quality by building a new road.
  • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) 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 MCORES program.
  • 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, eliminate and defund the MCORES program.
  • Induced sprawling development to benefit a few large landowners at the cost of the environment is the wrong direction for Florida to go. Florida needs innovative solutions for the 21st century, not more of the same thinking that created sprawl.