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First Public Meeting On Proposal For Three New Toll Roads Tuesday In Tampa

Suncoast Parkway
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
The Suncoast Parkway would be extended to the Georgia state line under the proposal

The public will get its first look at a massive plan to build three new toll roads through rural parts of the state on Tuesday.

The "kickoff" event will be held beginning at 8 a.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. Public comment will be held at 4:45 p.m.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s “Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance,” or M-CORES, task forces will ultimately make recommendations about the toll-road proposals, which were a top priority of Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, during this year’s legislative session.

A Galvano-spearheaded law (SB 7068) seeks to expand the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and add a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.

More than 100 local officials, environmentalists, representatives of agricultural interests, transportation planners, members of business groups and educators have been named to the task forces.

Tuesday’s day-long kickoff event at the Tampa Convention Center will begin at 8 a.m.

But the task-force process is expected to be contentious, as environmentalists argue that the projects would cause harm to undeveloped areas and lead to sprawl. Galvano and other supporters, however, say the projects will spur economic development in rural areas, help relieve traffic congestion and provide more options for hurricane evacuations.

The liberal group Progress Florida announced it will continue to fight “these costly and disastrous roads to ruin.”

“Make no mistake: we’re not interested in just making this horrible proposal less disastrous or getting a ‘better’ route for these unneeded and destructive toll roads,” Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida said in a release. “Our aim is to stop this new toll road debacle in its tracks.”

The Florida Conservation Voters has issued this report on what it calls "Roads to Ruin."

The kickoff event will mostly involve going over the study areas and rules for the task forces. Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault is expected to outline the role of the task force members at 9 a.m. Public comments are set for 4:45 p.m. Also, the event will include “comment stations.”

“There will be four comment stations out in the hallway of the Tampa Convention Center where attendees can write down comments, type it into a laptop, or tell it to a court reporter,” department spokesman Tom Yu said. “The comment stations will be open all day.”

A final report is supposed to be ready by Oct. 1, 2020.

Lawmakers designated $45 million toward the work in the current year, with annual funding expected to grow to $140 million.

Here's the itinerary for Tuesday's meeting:

What: M‑CORES Plenary Session and Task Force Meetings

Who: Florida Department of Transportation, task force chairs and task force members for the Suncoast Connector, Northern Turnpike Connector and Southwest-Central Florida Connector

Where: Tampa Convention Center, 333 South Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602

When: August 27, 2019

8:00 a.m. Registration begins

9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Plenary session

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Break

12:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. Task force meetings

4:45 p.m. Public comment period begins

This meeting will offer many opportunities for public input. At the meeting, you may make a comment:

  • In writing or digitally at a comment station
  • Verbally to an on-site court reporter
  • Publicly during the scheduled public comment period

Whether or not you attend the meeting, you may also submit a comment at any time:

Toll RoadsA satellite image of Florida at night, provided by the Sierra Club, overlayed with the three proposed toll road corridors as described in the bill
Credit Sierra Club Florida

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Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.