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Suncoast Expansion Nixed by the Next Generation After NCFRPC Executive Com. Nixes Discussion 

Proposed Suncoast Expansion: the next gen speaks. Not everyone is thrilled.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – During the June gathering of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council (NCFRPC), the Executive Committee agreed to keep the discussion of the controversial proposed extension of the Suncoast Toll Road away from the council's general membership.

Unbeknown to the Committee, eight members of the next generation were there to make their case against it.

In order of appearance

Christian Landaeta: "...please conserve the beauty we have..."

Christian LandaetaGood evening council members, my name is Christian Landaeta and I’m a concerned 19 year-old.

I understand that some of the main reasons that these toll roads appear like a great plan is because they’re supposed to offer jobs, help urbanize rural communities, and help fight traffic congestion, but there’s more to talk about than that.

Yes, the toll roads will offer jobs: temporal jobs that don’t require experience - minimum-wage jobs.

These toll roads will help urbanize rural communities, but that doesn’t mean that they will empower or help these communities thrive. This kind of urbanization will lead to non-local businesses and big-name corporation chains that’ll eventually drive out local businesses. The money made by big corporations will not return to these areas.

I’ve seen firsthand -- I believe that everyone in this room has seen firsthand -- forests, wetlands, and habitats for wildlife get bulldozed and turned into concrete plazas, malls, or suburbs -- you name it.

Council members, I urge you to stop the Suncoast Connector Toll Road. I urge you, along with our group of young leaders and along with all Floridians who have -- and especially those who haven’t seen the real beauty this state has to offer, to please conserve the beauty we have in this state. We all have the right to experience Florida’s natural beauty, not man-made imitations of it.

Ivan Landaeta:  "...protect the beautiful Florida we live in."

Ivan LandaetaI’m Ivan Landaeta and I’m 17. I am here to speak out against the Senate Bill 7068, also known as the proposed toll road which is a plan to connect the Suncoast all the way down to Naples.

According to the bill, the program is supposed to “Revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity, while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources.”

While it may accomplish some of these goals, it is far from achieving all of these goals in a sustainable manner.

It will revitalize rural communities, but it will do so via gentrification, which will displace the more vulnerable members of the community.

It will also harm the environment and our natural resources by destroying our beautiful forests, fragmenting wildlife habitats, and possibly damaging the quality of our watersheds.

This toll road may temporarily help transportation in a rapidly urbanizing Florida, but more availability only leads to more demand.

As urbanization advances, it is of utmost importance that we protect the beautiful Florida we live in. If not, we may see a future in which people will use the road to leave the Sunshine State instead of visiting it.

I truly hope that a more economically feasible as well as a more environmentally friendly alternative can be achieved for the sake of all of Florida and its future.

Thank you for your time. 

Elizabeth Walker: "We are standing at a crossroads."

Elizabeth WalkerMy name is Elizabeth Walker, I am 18 years old and I’ve lived in Florida my whole life. These new toll roads, specifically the Suncoast connector, will change rural towns into urban centers. This is not the Florida I want for our future.

Going to places like Disney is fun, but my favorite Florida memories are scalloping in Steinhatchee, swimming in Rock Bluff Springs, and swinging into rivers like the Suwannee.

Ingrained in these memories are the winding country roads and scenic rural towns on the way. My mom always talks about how some strip mall used to be an orange grove or forest.

We are standing at a crossroads. One path leads to a Florida full of concrete, asphalt, and manufactured beauty; the other a Florida where nature and people live cohesively.

A toll road intersecting the heart of Florida is a step toward urban sprawl and needless destruction of the gifts that Florida has. We can always decide to build a road later. But after this monster is developed, it cannot be undone.

Oscar Psychas: "Build a future for your kids and grandkids by..."

Oscar PsychasMy name is Oscar Psychas. I am here to speak against the proposed toll roads.

2 years ago, I walked across North Central Florida from my home in Gainesville to Tallahassee to urge our legislature to fully fund Florida forever. I walked through where they’re talking about putting a toll-road: through the bluffs of the Suwannee River and the pines and pastures of Madison County.

In North Florida, our unique natural environment and rural way of life are at the very foundation of the good life and our greatest hope for a prosperous future.

Your generation has witnessed the changes that have happened in Florida.

We have learned from history that building toll roads in rural areas creates the same pattern of sprawl that has chewed up so much of Central Florida. Look at the I-4 corridor.

Decades from now, we will realize too late that we can’t build a prosperous and healthy future for North Florida in the 21st century if we destroy what brings our communities to life in the first place.

Development starts with the communities that people actually live in today; not building sprawl out in the woods that leaves rural communities behind.

Real development is based off the needs of your constituents, not of the transportation industry.

I ask you to reject this toll road and build a future for your kids and grandkids by supporting development where our communities need it: in our existing roads, in our downtowns, in our farms, our parks, our schools.

Noah Turner: "It breaks my heart..."

Noah TurnerI am Noah Turner. I’m here to speak against the construction of the SB 7068 toll road otherwise known as the Suncoast connector.

I’ve had the utmost pleasure of seeing North Florida’s wildest & most pristine springs, forests, wetlands and rivers. It breaks my heart to know that those same springs, forests, wetlands & rivers are now endangered by the Suncoast connector.

SB-7068, the environmental amendments, specifically lines 177 through 251, are an inadequate means of addressing the public concern for wildlife habitat in the affected area.

The best way to protect Florida’s natural wildlife is to simply not build the road at all.

It’s an absolute contradication to say that a “purpose” of the toll road is to “protect the environment & natural resources,” as claimed on line 135.

The “Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program” will be an impenetrable wall fragmenting the entire connected ecosystem of Northern Florida.

The destruction of this critical wild area means the destruction of the communities that live in tandem with it. They are symbiotic, and mutually depend on each other for health and quality of life.

People love Florida because they love Florida’s one of a kind springs, it’s world famous nature trails, it’s breathtaking raw wilderness; that you can actually go & explore the swamps & woods untouched by the centuries of human development - something special that is found nowhere else in the western world.

The SB 7068 toll road will destroy the heart of Florida’s last swath of untouched wilderness.

You wouldn’t burn a one-of-a-kind Da Vinci painting just so you can cook a meal, so why would we allow the destruction of Florida’s one-of-a-kind environment for a toll road?

Emma Turner: "Suncoast connector is not an adequate solution..."

Emma TurnerMy name is Emma Turner. I’m 18 years old.

The Suncoast toll road proposed in SB 7068 will have negligible effects on traffic congestion along the North-South I-75 corridor and will instead contribute to over-crowded motorways in a previously underdeveloped parcel of Florida's landscape.

Road lobbyists insist that the only way to reduce the ever-growing demand for highway space is to build new roads. A paper published by the American Economic Review states that “interstate vehicle kilometers traveled increases one for one with interstate highways” and that expansion of major roads is “unlikely to relieve congestion.''

Construction of new highways may relieve traffic on I-75 for a few months, or maybe a year, but eventually as demand increases, more automobiles will flood into the created vacancies.

The Suncoast connector is not an adequate solution to motorway use. I urge you to consider the alternative.

The “intended benefit” of the Suncoast toll road, as stated in SB 7068, is “congestion mitigation." Capacity expansions and extensions to public transit are not appropriate policies with which to combat traffic.

SB 7068 is an uninspired, uncreative, and unwanted response to the growing Florida population.

A cross-state Suncoast toll road has no place in any future we envision.

Makena Lang: "....more roads encourages more traffic..."

Makena LangMy name is Makena Lang. I’m 17 years old. I am here to oppose the construction of SB 7068.

I ask you to do everything in your power to halt the construction of the Suncoast Connector.

When I first learned about these plans I was dismayed. These toll roads will have detrimental impacts on our Floridian environment, specifically by increasing our carbon footprint, progressing global climate change, and polluting our groundwater.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, transportation on roads makes up nearly one third of U.S. carbon emissions. Building more roads encourages more traffic, increasing carbon emissions.

New toll roads will pollute our aquifer and our waterways. Toll roads lead to sprawl.

The Suncoast Connector will be built directly on top of one of the most vulnerable absorption areas for our aquifer.

Is it worth possible contamination of our groundwater - our clean drinking water - for a toll road? The Planning Council Mission Statement includes “protecting regional resources."

I can confidently say that building these toll roads would do the exact opposite.

Anna Slayton: "The brainchild of two billionaires..."

Anna SlaytonMy name is Anna Slayton. My friends and I are here to contest the planned toll road construction that passed in the latest legislative session.

I am 18 years old and I love Florida. I hope that it will continue to be an incredible state, but when I heard about the Suncoast connector, I’m sad to say my positivity wilted a bit.

After researching, it became achingly clear for whom these roads are designed.

Was this plan created out of concern of the Floridian public?

This plan is the brainchild of two billionaires and the Florida transportation industry.

They were able to convince almost every legislator to support it.

Have they heard what your constituents have to say about these toll roads?

In my hometown, there was a flash mob protest against its construction. In St. Petersburg there was a similar protest.  And here today, we stand in another protest.

I don’t have a check to hand my legislator.

Hopefully, after you’ve heard our words, you see why this road is far from in the interests of the Floridian people.

I urge you to honor your mission statement: go home and ask your constituents what they think?

On behalf of all of us, thank you for your time.  

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On July 29, 2019, HB from Levy County wrote:

I'd like to thank the Columbia observer for publishing the comments made at the North Florida Planning Council meeting concerning Senate President Galvano Tollway Expansion Bill 7068.

I live in Levy County and have lived in Florida since I was about 4 years old not counting the two times I left for better employment as a young woman. I lived in Ft Lauderdale when it was a fairly quiet little tourist town dwarfed by Miami Beach and Miami proper.

I sometimes venture south now but am appalled by the air pollution and Biscayne Bay where I used to swim and boat as a teenager with not a care in the world.

We don't want our rural lands to turn into South Florida. People are beginning to move up from the East Coast because they are afraid of the crime and the horrible bottlenecks of traffic.

A friend raised in California says these tollways will turn us into a nightmare of sprawl and a desert as has happened in California. Housing developments cost the taxpayers more than they are worth with more infrastructure required and social services like schools and emergency support.

Fire protection couldn't help Paradise California.

South Florida tollways and urban roads need at least $138 million dollars now just to fix what is rapidly deteriorating. Their tolls will go up to pay for boondoggles like the Suncoast Tollway now.

The tollway in Lakeland to I-4 (that Galvano wants to connect to his new or old "Heartland Tollway " to Collier County) cuts the other towns off from the rest of Polk county and it cost $22 million a mile per Wikipedia.

Our Conservation lands like Goethe State Forest are in the bulls eye for paving.

The FDOT Biologist I met with while discussing the  I-75 Corridor in Marion County said conservation lands are cheap and that's why they want to pave them.

Keep America Green.  H.B.

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On July 19, 2019, Retha from Jacksonville wrote:

The parents of these young people must be very proud, as should be all Floridians. They did their research, stood up, and spoke out eloquently and made good arguments against yet another road that won't solve the problems of heavy traffic, but will destroy the beauty of our state and irreparably damage the environment for these young people and future generations of bright, engaged and involved Floridians.

 

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

 
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