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Transportation

Citrus County commissioners say they oppose plans to expand the Florida Turnpike

Florida Turnpike road sign
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State transportation officials are moving ahead with plans to extend the northern end of the Florida Turnpike beyond where it now ends at Interstate 75 in Wildwood.

Commissioners will ask the Florida Department of Transportation saying to remove three of the routes recommended for expanding the turnpike from where it now ends at Interstate 75 in Wildwood.

Citrus County commissioners are opposing proposals to extend Florida's Turnpike through rural counties north of the Tampa Bay region.

Members voted unanimously on Tuesday to send a letter to state transportation officials considering an expansion.

They will ask the state to remove three of the routes recommended for expanding the turnpike from where it now ends at Interstate 75 in Wildwood.

A series of speakers attending a workshop mostly opposed the planned toll road.

Mark Seveska lives in the Pine Ridge community in Citrus County, which falls in one of the proposed paths. He says the Department of Transportation study does not look at what he called "smart build" options.

"Smart build, that first seeks to expand existing infrastructure, avoids damage to our ecosystem, the nature in the Nature Coast and the foundation of our ecotourism and our rural lifestyle that many value here," Seveska said. "And it does not plow through developed communities and force the removal of families."

Earlier this month, the Inverness City Council voted to send a similar message.

Sally McDavid, a fourth-generation Floridian, said getting away from urban sprawl is why many people moved to Citrus County.

"What happens to rural Florida and our lifestyle is up to you and the local governments that are in the paths of this destruction," McDavid said during the workshop. "The environment, homes, farms, timberland, recreation areas, and our way of life are all at risk."

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is asking the Department of Transportation about about the proposed expansion's impacts to both state-owned land and water resources, such as springs and the underground aquifer.

The road study is set to be completed by 2024.