logo

Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Florida News

SB 7068 - Toll Road Bill, A Hot Topic at Planning Council: Opposition is Out of the Gate Early

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – SB 2068, or what is becoming known as the Florida Toll Road Bill, was the hot topic at the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council Thursday night as opposition to the bill is out of the gate early and making its voice heard in North Florida, as well as other areas in the state.

What is SB 7068, The Toll Road Bill about?


Consisting of 28 pages, you can read the bill here. Skip the first five pages and read the fruit of Florida politicians at work

This is how the Toll Road bill explains itself :  "The legislation: create 3 more toll roads - one extending the Suncoast Expressway to GA, one connecting Polk to Collier in the SW, and one extending the turnpike to the Suncoast."

Continuing: "Transportation; Creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program within the Department of Transportation; specifying that projects undertaken in the corridors are tolled facilities and certain approved turnpike projects, and are considered as Strategic Intermodal System facilities; requiring the department [FL Dept. of Transportation] to identify certain opportunities to accommodate or colocate multiple types of infrastructure-addressing issues during the project development phase, etc."

 

NCFRPC Executive Committee
Will it support the toll road legislation?

Before the general meeting of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC), the executive committee met to take care of routine business.

As the meeting concluded, the Toll Road Bill came up.

Your reporter asked, "Does the planning council know the route of these roads?

Long time Executive Director of the NCFRPC, Scott Koons answered, "No."


Map by 100 Friends of Florida. Highlighted sections are the proposed toll roads.

Your reporter followed up, "Does anybody in the state know the route of these roads?"

Mr. Koons answered, "No. That's what the taskforce is for. The Secretary [of Transportation] is going to appoint a taskforce for each of the corridors. They are going to determine the route; evaluate the economic and environmental impacts; evacuation impacts and land use impacts and make a recommendation back to the Department of Transportation."

"It's a general area. [the Northern route] It will be the continuation of the Suncoast Parkway up through probably Dixie, Taylor, and possibly Madison or Jefferson County all the way to Georgia."

Your reporter asked, "Is the Council going to take a position on whether or not they are in favor of the roads, because a lot of people aren't."

Mr. Koons replied, "They are not required to. They may or may not. The taskforce will have agency representatives and elected officials from each jurisdiction, a representative from each regional planning council, each water management district, citizens from the community and environmental groups."

Your reporter asked, "The planning council could take a position on whether or not they are for these new toll roads?"

Mr. Koons answered, "We haven't even started the process yet. It is going to be an 18 month process."

Your reporter followed up, "People have already started the process against it."

Mr. Koons replied, "We are well aware of that. The taskforce meetings will be public meetings."


Another version of the map. Composite by the Observer. Original: see Twitter

Your reporter asked, "At what point do you feel that the planning council would be in a position to make a decision on whether or not they favor these roads?"

The members of the executive committee agreed that at the present time there is not enough information for any kind of a decision.

Your reporter followed up, "One of the proposals that I've heard is "let's get I-75 squared away."

Mr. Koons responded, "The council has already recommended that."

Alachua City Commissioner Robert Wilford said, "It may take two or three years to get that study done."

Your reporter asked of no one in particular, "Do you know how many people you could teach to read for $45 mil?" [the initial cost of the study]

Your reporter continued, "Does it appear to anybody besides me that this is just a big political football?"

Mr. Koons replied, "It was the number one priority of President Galvano in the Senate... the Governor signed it. We'll have to see how it plays out. It's supposed to start construction by December 2022 and be completed by December 2030."

Your reporter, "The taskforce  – are they going to recommend or not recommend construction?"

Mr. Koons, "That's one of the options."

Your reporter, "So they may agree with planning council taskforce that we should expand I-75."

Mr. Koons responded, "The taskforce is an advisory body. They [FL DOT] are only bound to consider the recommendations."

The Toll Road Protestors Speak Their Minds

The general meeting of the planning council was convened. The general business was disposed of and those who came to speak their minds in opposition to the toll road plan were each given time to make their case.

Merrillee Malwitz-JipsonFirst person to the microphone was Florida grown and known environmental activist Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson: "We are concerned about the toll road proposal, between I-75 and the Gulf of Mexico. This toll road proposal has a lot of nuances that are going to impact our community. We are very concerned. I am looking at the development and all the other things that come along with a highway. I am bringing my concerns to you because you do planning. We are looking at the area between Tampa, all the way up to Georgia, and we are very concerned that you are going to destroy our rural way of life; our wildlife; and the farmlands. The communities that would be impacted the most would be communities that do not have a lot of wealth."

Jim TatumJim Tatum, a well known environmental activist and archeologist told the planning council: "I represent Our Santa Fe River. Everyone in this room knows about the recently passed bill to build new toll roads in Florida. We must oppose this. We do not need massive new developers. One proposed road goes through rural areas home to the Santa Fe, Suwannee, and Ichetucknee Rivers. This is our unique springs heartland driver for a fast growing tourism. Water management districts are failing to protect our water resources and their projections for the next few years will show that we will not have enough water for current needs, let alone the development that these roads would bring. The new road proposal was not carefully conceived nor well thought out. It is so poorly planned, that one road ends at the Georgia line with nothing on the other side to connect. This bill was opposed by 90 different groups in Florida and for good reason. Please prepare to oppose this destructive proposal."

John Quarterman

 

 

John Quarterman: I'm the Suwannee River keeper. Do we really want something like that [the Suncoast Connector] barreling through this a River basin without one sentence as to where it is going to go? Seems like a bad idea.

 

.

.

Eileen Fox

 

Eileen Fox:  Hello, I'm from Suwannee County. I have a lot of new friends that have moved into my County and surrounding counties. Every one of them moved up here because they like the rural lifestyle; they like the lack of development; the lack of paving; the lack of traffic; the madhouse. I think that we would be destroying the best part of our area by overdevelopment.

 

 

Sarah Younger

 

Sarah Younger:  I'm here about the toll road. I moved up from South Florida in 2017 to High Springs. It was the rural way of life that attracted me to the area. I am concerned about us putting more people in harm's way by building out the coastlines.

 

 

Kate GallagherKate Gallagher:  I am a fifth generation of Florida cracker. Climate change is going to be a huge issue for us. This toll road is the exact opposite of what we should do. This toll road will bring a toll on our ability to have clean water, clean air, survival from a hurricane. The money taken out of the general fund will take a toll on education; social services. Can we really ever trust politicians if the rich people get to funnel our tax dollars into a boondoggle that will hurt us all?

 

Karen Chadwick

 

Karen Chadwick: I am a Florida native. I was born in Sarasota. I moved here to find the rural areas. We shouldn't do something we will need to undo later and that is how I look at these toll roads. I hate to see these toll roads come in and hurt the little towns and bring in a bunch more pollution.

 

 

David MoritzDavid Moritz:  for the last seven years I have been on the Alachua County environmental protection advisory committee. In Alachua County the [proposed] corridors affect Paines Prairie Preserve and the Balhamock Preserve. These preserves, when they were created, were meant to last forever. They weren't meant to be broken apart or developed. We need to watch what we do. We need to protect these natural areas with everything we've got.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

 
Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.
 
 

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.