Environmental impact of the new toll road measure

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:

Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it clear that our state’s environment is a priority for him. But after passing a toll road bill last week, critics said it would hurt the environment.

The new toll road will make it easier and faster to get to the center of the state. The question is, at what cost?

More drivers mean more cars. Soon, that will mean more highway.

DeSantis signed a controversial measure Friday to build three toll roads in Florida. It expands the Suncoast Pkwy N connecting the parkway to the turnpike and adding a new corridor from Collier to Polk counties.

“It is completely to be expected that the regions next to the road will grow also,” Duke said.

Don Duke, an Environmental Studies professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, said the projects would come at a price. He said that the development in rural areas like this one could create faster water run-off while generating nutrients that could contribute to more algae.

“We are increasing development in areas that are present in our open space,” Duke said. “Those open spaces are absolutely crucial to water resources and the rest of the state.”

While the new roads are expected to cater to Florida’s growth and tourism, Duke worries the development could hurt the economy, steering away visitors who come to enjoy Florida’s rural areas.

“Many of us who move here come here for the environmental amenities,” Duke said.

Florida will spend $45 million next year to create a task force with state and local officials looking at where to build the roads and the environmental impact. The goal is to start construction by the end of 2022 with completion expected by 2030.

Over the next three years, the state will spend $270 million on the project. After that, it will cost the state $140 million a year until the roads are complete.

But even with DeSantis giving it his approval, the roads may not be enough.

“We’re probably going to need more than that,” DeSantis said, “just given how our state is growing.”

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