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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Bills Filed To Kill Three Proposed Toll Roads

picture of sign on florida toll road

Bills have been filed in the state House and Senate to kill the plan to build 330 miles of new toll roads through mostly rural areas of the state.

Bills were filed Wednesday that would kill the plan to build three new toll roads through rural parts of Florida.

Tina Polsky, D-Palm Beach County, filed the bill (SB-1030) in the state Senate. She said the plans to build 330 miles of highways are competing with more pressing needs.

"Once we start it, it's such a waste of money to not finish it. We've already wasted money on the studies, quite a bit — tens of millions of dollars," she said. "So if we don't cut it off now at the knees, we're really in for it. And it's going to last a long time."

The roads would extend the Suncoast Parkway north to the Georgia border; connect it with Florida's Turnpike; and connect Polk and Collier counties.

Environmentalists say it would harm wildlife and the area's rural nature. State planners say it would extend broadband corridors and provide quicker evacuation routes during hurricanes.

Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, is planning to file a similar bill in the House.

He said expected budget cutbacks because of decreased tax revenue during the pandemic means there are other important concerns right now.

"We've got some important priorities that we're going to figure out how we're going to pay for, given the fact that we have a significant decrease in the amount of general revenue that's coming into the state coffers," he said. "All these projects always cost far more than they say they're going to cost, and there's little demonstrated transportation need for these projects."

The bill creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, despite a veto request from over 90 organizations and businesses.

It was spearheaded by former state Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who is no longer in office.

That bill gave extraordinarily tight timelines — construction would start in 2022 and the roads would be "substantially completed" by 2030. Some estimates have the total cost at upwards of $10 billion.

Toll roads
Florida Department of Transportation
Map of the corridors proposed for the three toll roads

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