Space Coast Progressive Alliance

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Thursday, 25 April 2019 10:03

SCPA Opposes Proposed Toll Roads Featured

Written by  Team SCPA

"They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot." Those old lyrics were part of a cautionary tale that we're living today. As developers destroy more and more of our planet's natural spaces, some people will make short-term gains, but the rest of us lose. Our children and grand children will damn us to hell.

The Space Coast Progressive Alliance believes that thoughtful, sustainable, well planned development is a necessary part of our society. We oppose this plan.

We are proud to stand with the Sierra Club in opposition to the toll roads that are proposed in HB 7113 and SB 7068, and we encourage you to contact your Florida Representative and Senator to stop these Bills.

This is the letter that we have co-signed:

April 25, 2019

The Honorable House of Representatives

House Office Building

402 S. Monroe St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399

RE: Oppose proposed toll roads – HB 7113/SB 7068

To the Florida House of Representatives: 

The 75 below-signed organizations and businesses ask that you oppose legislation that seeks to construct three toll roads through rural Florida. These highways will not reduce traffic or provide safety during hurricane events. 

1000 Friends of Florida found in its Florida 2070 report that Florida is on track to increase developed land to a full third of the State in the next half century. Sprawl is not progress. These toll roads will cost Florida hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and rural lands and fragment landscape and wildlife habitat. The intended “benefits” of these toll roads include water and sewer infrastructure which, with on and off ramps, will accelerate urban sprawl. 

This legislation would carve three corridors through Florida’s undeveloped areas:

  • "Southwest-Central Florida Connector" extending from Collier County to Polk County; a previous highway planned for the route was called the  Heartland Parkway
  • "Suncoast Connector" extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County
  • "Northern Turnpike Connector" extending from the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway

Building these roads will be very expensive. The funding would grow from $45 million next fiscal year to $90 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, about $135 million the next year, and a recurring amount of $140 million starting in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. And that’s just for planning. Billions will be bonded to actually build hundreds of miles of limited access highways. Florida will be paying off the debt for more than a generation instead of funding education, healthcare, or needed infrastructure for wastewater, drinking water, and the roads and bridges we already have.

These hugely expensive road projects and accompanying urban sprawl will devastate habitat for the Florida Panther and dozens of other endangered and threatened Florida species.  They will destroy important wetlands, forests, springs, and aquifer recharge areas from Florida Bay to the Georgia border even though they would not serve an identified transportation purpose. In fact, the FDOT Interstate 75 Relief Task Force recommended in 2016 that rather than new roads, a better approach was expanding the vehicle capacity of the interstate and connecting highways.

Transit and planning relieve congestion, not building roads. Relieving congestion in urban areas requires a focus on transit. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 Report Card notes that only 2% of Floridians’ commutes to work were made by public transit and that Florida needs to develop and connect its transit networks with an additional $1.3 billion investment.

Road building is not a sustainable economic development strategy for rural communities.  In fact, these roads will route traffic away from communities established on existing roads, harming their economies.

New tollways through west-central Florida are not the answer to hurricane preparedness.  Floridians need more safe spaces in their communities to shelter during storms; only 42% of schools are designated hurricane shelters, indicating many schools do not meet the structural requirements.  Providing safe shelters for evacuees is a more practical and affordable response to extreme weather events than new toll expressways.

We urge you to spend Florida tax payer dollars wisely and reject the toll roads.

Sincerely,

The Space Coast Progressive Alliance

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