Florida House kills Collier–Polk connector road plan

Author: News Service of Florida
Published: Updated:
The Southwest-Central Florida Connector would have connected Polk and Collier counties. (Credit: WINK News Drone)

The Florida House on Tuesday scuttled large parts of a controversial toll-road plan that would have included a road from Collier County to Polk County.

House Democratic Co-leader Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, told reporters that a bill (SB 100) to repeal the road program dubbed the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, or M-CORES — pushed through in 2019 by then-Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton — would protect sensitive environmental lands and lower costs for taxpayers.

“To see that get peeled back by about 85 percent, that was a huge win for us,” Jenne said. “It’s something that we’ve been saying since the day that language was introduced, that this was going to be an economic boondoggle and it was going to have serious environmental ramifications.”

The House took up the bill Monday and put it in position for a final vote on Tuesday, when it passed unanimously.

The 2019 law called for building a toll road from Collier County to Polk County; extending Florida’s Turnpike to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and extending the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County.

This year’s bill, which has already passed the Senate, would eliminate the road between Collier and Polk counties, while requiring plans to extend the turnpike west from Wildwood to the Suncoast Parkway and to lay out a route that would weave the Suncoast Parkway north along U.S. 19 to connect with Interstate 10 in Madison County.

Jenne said the turnpike extension might be the most acceptable part of the plan: “That connector really was the lone part that you could make a coherent, tangible argument that it was necessary.”

The bill relies in part on recommendations of task forces that looked at the road projects last year. Also, lawmakers have cited economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included forcing the Department of Transportation to trim a work program.

The task forces, which spent about 15 months reviewing the M-CORES projects, sent a report to lawmakers in November calling for a deeper dive into the future traffic needs of the state.

The M-CORES projects were promoted by Galvano as a way to help handle future growth, and he linked the roads with adding broadband and other infrastructure.

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