Environmentalists concerned over proposed mid-state toll roads

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SunPass toll plaza. Photo Credit: CBS Miami

At any moment this week state lawmakers could pass a bill allowing for three toll roads in rural parts of Florida.

One of those would connect Collier County and Polk County, but environmentalists want to put a stop to this plan.

Drivers like Josh Carrizales say he doesn’t like driving on I-75, and its people like him this toll road project spanning the state could benefit according to the bill’s sponsors.

The idea, taking advantage of open mid-state land to alleviate traffic during season, hurricane evacuations, and year round traffic.

But some are skeptical.

“How much more time are we gonna save by doing that?” asks Richard Heresmann.

This project involves three toll roads. One extending the turnpike to link-up with the Suncoast Parkway.

Another would extend the parkway toward Georgia.

And the third impacts us here in Southwest Florida, running all the way from Polk to Collier County.

Ryan Orgera, CEO of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation says, “This particular road is slated to go through some of the last and vast wetlands we have the region.”

Environmentalists are concerned this project could make our already suffering water quality even worse.

“Wetlands serve this incredible environmental service,” Orgera says. “They act as filters so every bit of rain that falls filers through a wetland and then comes out through a natural system that’s incredibly efficient.”

Some say they’d rather see our current infrastructure improved, and projects completed that are already underway.

Supports say this will improve more than transportation, it will allow communities to grow.

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Tom Lee, says they’re working closely with environmental groups to come up with the best solution.

If approved, work could begin in 2022.

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