EcoAction Alerts

Oppose Suncoast Connector Toll Road

Submit Comments to Task Force

This Action Alert orignially asked FNPS members to attend a meeting of the Suncoast Connector Task Force that was scheduled for March 24 in Monticello.  That meeting has been postponed indefinitely in reponse to Coronavirus concerns and directives for us all to self-isolate. While this eliminates the opportuinty to comment directly to members of the Task Force on the 24th, it doesn't preclude the submission of written comments via email to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us . Please take this opportunity to quickly and easily (and safely and conveniently) share your concerns about this destructive and unnecessary proposed toll road. Additional information and details are provided below:

If you aren’t familiar with the project, you can review the basics in a report we published in the Sabal minor (https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/sabalminor/issue_6_november_december_2019.pdf) or at the M-CORES website (https://floridamcores.com/suncoast-connector-task-force/). We have provided some possible talking points below.  The impacts of a project like the Suncoast Connector M-CORES toll road would be so massive and broad in scope, they extend far beyond our FNPS mission to speak for native plant conservation.  Since you cannot comment  in person to the Task Force, comment by email to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us . Comment on something specific you care about.  Public sentiment is against the roads based on comments expressed at previous meetings and it appears to be resonating with some Task Force members.  Share your most serious concerns, and let them know if you live in the area and would be affected directly.  

The Florida Native Plant Society is continuing to assess the potential impacts of the M-CORES projects on native plants and other sensitive natural resources.  FDOT has released a map that identifies “avoidance areas” the road would not impact.  You can download the map, and other documents describing the project, at https://floridamcores.com/event/suncoast-connector-task-force-meeting-4/#documents.   If there is a natural area in the Study Area that is special to you, it may well be in the crosshairs of the future highway and the development it is intended to promote.  A list of possible talking points is provided below.  If you share our concerns, or have others of your own as a potentially affected resident, please share them with FDOT and the Task Force members. 

Consider the following:

  1. More than 1 million acres of protected conservation land, and more than 300,000 acres of land in already-approved Florida Forever projects, is located in the Suncoast Connector Study Area, underscoring the immense conservation value of this region.
  2. Agriculture’s contribution to our economy is second only to tourism. The Suncoast Connector Study Area encompasses a huge swath of Florida’s agricultural land base, including commercial forests and ranchland that are indispensable to maintaining connectivity among existing conservation lands in the region.  Some of those privately owned forests and ranches have been proposed for protection as approved Florida Forever projects and more than 50,000 acres are approved for protection as Rural and Family Lands Program projects,
  3. More than half of the 4 million acre Study Area consists of fire-dependent plant community or fire-maintained agricultural land.  A major highway bisecting the length of the region would compromise huge investments in land conservation, and productivity in affected ranches, forests and cropland, by reducing the long-term ability to conduct essential prescribed burns.  Imperiled species and natural communities, and economically valuable agricultural, could suffer to accommodate a road that does not satisfy any identified transportation need – even if they have already been “conserved’ through public investment. 
  4. Claims that the roads would bring important infrastructure, like high speed internet, to isolated rural areas and help address hurricane evacuation needs are questionable. High speed internet and other utilities could be extended to rural areas without investing billions on unneeded roads, and Florida’s Department of Emergency Management prefers improved evacuation planning that would allow evacuees to remain close to home as a safer and more cost-effective solution than building new roads.
  5. The Florida Department of Transportation’s systematic approach to planning for our transportation future has not identified a need for these roads, which could cost more than $30 billion to build – not including right-of-way acquisition!  Current data from the Turnpike Authority indicates toll receipts would not come anywhere close to covering debt service on the bonds required to finance a project of this scale.  Which transportation projects already vetted on the basis of need and available funding will be shelved to free up funding for M-CORES roads?  Which other pressing needs will go unaddressed? Siphoning billions from FDOT’s budget to study and build unnecessary toll roads would require painful – and unnecessary! - tradeoffs.
  6. Our utter dependence on roads and the internal combustion engine to meet most of our transportation needs requires a paradigm shift that recognizes the reality of climate change.  We must invest in the infrastructure of the future.  The transportation network of the future will be different, and a toll road like the Suncoast Connector would be antiquated before construction is even completed.
  7. FNPS has adopted a formal policy on the development of transportation infrastructure, and M-CORES does not meet the basic premise that new roads must be justified by a valid transportation need. See the full text of the policy, which may provide you with additional points to consider, at https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/pubs/policy_transportation.pdf.

Bottom line: moving forward with the M-CORES Suncoast Connector project would require the expenditure of billions on a toll road that would not meet any real transportation need in the name of promoting economic development. Millions of acres of natural greenspace and agricultural land are at risk.  A project of this scale needs to be the subject of careful deliberation, yet even a cursory assessment raises profound doubts about the need for, and wisdom of, such a road. Submit comments to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us.


Oppose Northern Turnpike Connector Toll Road

Submit Comments to Task Force

This Action Alert orignially asked FNPS members to attend a meeting of the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force that was scheduled for March 25 in Ocala.  That meeting has been postponed indefinitely in reponse to Coronavirus concerns and directives for us all to self-isolate. While this eliminates the opportuinty to comment directly to members of the Task Force on the 25th, it doesn't preclude the submission of written comments via email to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us . Please take this opportunity to quickly and easily (and safely and conveniently) share your concerns about this destructive and unnecessary proposed toll road. Additional information and details are provided below:

If you aren’t familiar with the project, you can review the basics in a report we published in the Sabal minor (https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/sabalminor/issue_6_november_december_2019.pdf) or at the M-CORES website (https://floridamcores.com/northern-turnpike-connector-task-force/). We have provided some possible talking points below.  The impacts of a project like the Northern Turnpike Connector M-CORES toll road would be so massive and broad in scope, they extend far beyond our FNPS mission to speak for native plant conservation.  Since you cannot comment  in person to the Task Force, comment by email to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us . Comment on something specific you care about.  Public sentiment is against the roads based on comments expressed at previous meetings and it appears to be resonating with some Task Force members.  Share your most serious concerns, and let them know if you live in the area and would be affected directly. 

The Florida Native Plant Society is continuing to assess the potential impacts of the M-CORES projects on native plants and other sensitive natural resources.  FDOT has released a “Draft Avoidance Areas Map that identifies conservation lands the road would not impact.  You can download the map, and other documents describing the project, at https://floridamcores.com/event/northern-turnpike-connector-task-force-meeting-4/#documents.   If there is a natural area in the Study Area that is special to you, it may well be in the crosshairs of the future highway and the development it is intended to promote.  A list of possible talking points is provided below.  If you share our concerns, or have others of your own as a potentially affected resident, please take the time to submit comments.

Consider the following:

  1. Nearly 1.2 million acres of protected conservation land, and more than 158,000 acres of land in already-approved Florida Forever projects, is located in the Northern Turnpike Connector Study Area, underscoring the immense conservation value of this region.
  2. Agriculture’s contribution to our economy is second only to tourism. The Northern Turnpike Connector Study Area encompasses a huge swath of Florida’s agricultural land base, including commercial forests and ranchland that are indispensable to maintaining connectivity among existing conservation lands in the region.  Some of those privately owned forests and ranches have been proposed for protection as approved Florida Forever projects and more than 28,000 acres are approved for protection as Rural and Family Lands Program projects,
  3. More than half of the 2.5 million acre Study Area consists of fire-dependent plant community or fire-maintained agricultural land.  A major highway bisecting the length of the region would compromise huge investments in land conservation, and productivity in affected ranches, forests and cropland, by reducing the long-term ability to conduct essential prescribed burns.  Imperiled species and natural communities, and economically valuable agricultural, could suffer to accommodate a road that does not satisfy any identified transportation need – even if they have already been “conserved’ through public investment. 
  4. Claims that the roads would bring important infrastructure, like high speed internet, to isolated rural areas and help address hurricane evacuation needs are questionable. High speed internet and other utilities could be extended to rural areas without investing billions on unneeded roads, and Florida’s Department of Emergency Management prefers improved evacuation planning that would allow evacuees to remain close to home as a safer and more cost-effective solution than building new roads.
  5. The Florida Department of Transportation’s systematic approach to planning for our transportation future has not identified a need for these roads, which could cost more than $30 billion to build – not including right-of-way acquisition!  Current data from the Turnpike Authority indicates toll receipts would not come anywhere close to covering debt service on the bonds required to finance a project of this scale.  Which transportation projects already vetted on the basis of need and available funding will be shelved to free up funding for M-CORES roads?  Which other pressing needs will go unaddressed? Siphoning billions from FDOT’s budget to study and build unnecessary toll roads would require painful – and unnecessary! - tradeoffs.
  6. Our utter dependence on roads and the internal combustion engine to meet most of our transportation needs requires a paradigm shift that recognizes the reality of climate change.  We must invest in the infrastructure of the future.  The transportation network of the future will be different, and a toll road like the Northern Turnpike Connector would be antiquated before construction is even completed.
  7. FNPS has adopted a formal policy on the development of transportation infrastructure, and M-CORES does not meet the basic premise that new roads must be justified by a valid transportation need. See the full text of the policy, which may provide you with additional points to consider, at https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/pubs/policy_transportation.pdf.

Bottom line: moving forward with the M-CORES Northern Turnpike Connector project would require the expenditure of billions on a toll road that would not meet any real transportation need in the name of promoting economic development. Millions of acres of natural greenspace and agricultural land are at risk from the M-CORES projects.  Projects of this scale need to be the subject of careful deliberation, yet even a cursory assessment raises profound doubts about the need for, and wisdom of, such a road.  Please take the time to submit comments to FDOT and the Task Force members at FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us .


Stop the Toll Roads to Nowhere

August 23, 2019

In May, we asked you to contact Governor DeSantis and urge him to veto Senate Bill 7068, which called for development of three major toll roads that will bisect the largest remaining expanses of rural Florida, invite sprawling development, and otherwise compromise any future ability to complete a functional network of conservation land. Despite widespread opposition to this proposal on the basis of many compelling arguments against them, the Governor did not veto the bill and the stage is now set for eventual construction of the toll roads – unless Floridians stand up to the powerful special interests behind them by expressing our strong and unequivocal opposition!

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has established an email address to receive public comments on the so-called M-CORES project, short for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance. These “corridors” would literally pave the way for destruction of some of Florida’s most significant remaining natural areas and agricultural land.

We’re asking you to submit an email to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us explaining your outrage over this proposal to spend billions of public dollars on the more aptly named “roads to nowhere” project that would wreak havoc on the environment, prevent or delay action on more pressing public needs, and enrich the influential voices that worked behind the scenes to convince our legislature and Governor to approve this self-serving boondoggle.

We have provided information below that underscores just how destructive these roads would be. The arguments against them are deep, and the justifications for them are shallow. Choose an argument or two that resonate with you on a personal level, write a short email explaining why you oppose M-CORES, and hit “send”. It is not important that you mention your membership in FNPS unless you wish to. We will continue to communicate the Society’s opposition on your behalf. At this stage, it is more important for Floridians to make it clear to the state agencies and private interests pushing these toll roads that we will not stand by passively while the future of our state is bargained away to the highest bidder.

FDOT has appointed three task forces, one for each of the proposed toll roads, and they will conduct their first meeting on August 27 in Tampa. Many of those appointed as task force members will not be impartial arbiters carefully weighing the pros and cons of the projects. The businesses and industries they represent stand to profit handsomely from construction of the roads and the spin-off development the roads would induce.

Future meetings will be conducted in the areas that will be directly impacted by the roads, and we will keep you informed about those meetings and continue to voice our opposition at every stage. You can see maps of the 3 “study areas”, which collectively encompass over 6 million acres, at http://floridamcores.com/#home ..

Consider the following when you compose your email:

  1. The springsheds of at least 13 of our 30 Outstanding Florida Springs lie within the Northern Turnpike Connector and Suncoast Connector areas. These two toll roads would bisect some of the highest groundwater recharge zones in Florida – a major reason those springs, already degraded by nutrient pollution and declining flows, would be put at even greater risk by the development the roads will spawn.

  2. More than 1 million acres of protected conservation land, and more than 1.4 million acres of land in already-approved Florida Forever projects, is located in the proposed corridors, underscoring the immense conservation value of these regions that include panther habitat in south Florida; rare scrub along the Lake Wales Ridge that is home to dozens of critically imperiled plant species; and the extensive forests of the Big Bend.

  3. Claims that the roads would bring important infrastructure, like high speed internet, to isolated rural areas and help speed up hurricane evacuation are invalid. High speed internet could be extended to those areas without investing billions on unneeded roads, and Florida’s Department of Emergency Management prefers improved evacuation planning that would allow evacuees to remain close to home as a safer and more cost-effective solution than building new roads.

  4. Agriculture’s contribution to our economy is second only to tourism. Collectively, the three corridor study areas encompass huge swaths of Florida’s agricultural land base, including the commercial forests of the Big Bend (more than 300,000 acres in Taylor County alone), the renowned thoroughbred horse ranches of Marion County, and the large cattle ranches of the Peace River and Kissimmee River valleys. The sprawl promoted by the toll roads would compromise the future viability of agriculture in those regions. Why trade valuable agricultural land, and the perpetual economic, environmental and national security benefits of viable large-scale agriculture, for costly and inefficient suburban sprawl?

  5. The Florida Department of Transportation’s systematic approach to planning for our transportation future has not identified a need for these roads. They coordinate with local governments to identify and solve our actual transportation needs in the most cost efficient way possible. Siphoning billions from FDOT’s budget to study and build these toll roads will only delay progress on real transportation needs and keep us mired in the outdated focus on roads as the solution to all our transportation problems. Enhancing the existing network of roads, and providing alternatives to the use of automobiles, should be the focus of our future transportation investments.

  6. FNPS has adopted a formal policy on the development of transportation infrastructure, and M-CORES is entirely inconsistent with the basic premise that new roads must be justified by a valid transportation need that would benefit the many, not to promote economic development to benefit the few. See the full text of the policy, which may provide you with additional speaking points, at https://www.fnps.org/assets/pdf/pubs/policy_transportation.pdf.

Make no mistake – the M-CORES project proposes we spend billions on toll roads that would not meet any real transportation need in the name of promoting economic development. The project would simply replace natural greenspace and agricultural land with suburban sprawl and increase our current challenges to protect water resources and conserve natural areas. Florida already has more miles of toll road than any other state – more than we need based on toll receipts for many of them - and FNPS strongly opposes the construction of an additional 300 miles of unnecessary toll roads through sparsely populated regions. We need to concentrate on conserving what is left rather than on promoting its development.

Please email FDOT right away at FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us and tell them you oppose the construction of these unnecessary toll roads, which are nothing more than a generous gift to the developers, industries and landowners who stand to profit from them.