Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

DeSantis approves Florida toll road projects, overcoming environmental concerns

The signing happened at the Longboat Key Club in Bradenton, where Senate President Bill Galvano was hosting a golf tournament for his late father.
Published May 17, 2019
Updated May 17, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to Florida’s largest potential road project in decades, signing a bill Friday that could pave the way for building a massive new toll road through the state and extending two others.

The decision came despite overwhelming objections from environmental groups, who held protests calling on the self-described “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” governor to veto the bill.

At a separate bill signing in Sarasota Friday morning, DeSantis said he would sign off on the toll roads, but didn’t mention he was going to do it just minutes later.

“I think we need new roads in Florida to get around,” he said. “It’s a bill that I’ll support and sign.”

DeSantis didn’t address the concerns from environmentalists, who fear the roads will lead to sprawl through rural and sensitive areas of the state, wiping out wetlands and wildlife corridors.

And he spoke only briefly about why the roads were necessary, saying just that it would be “good” to have new routes in the state.

MORE ON THE TOLL ROADS: With toll roads bill, DeSantis faces his first test as an environmental champion

New toll roads could be a boon to billionaires. To Floridians? Who knows.

Build the Suncoast Parkway all the way to Georgia? Nobody told Georgia

“Completing the Suncoast Parkway, I think, would give another route to places like Tallahassee and Northwest Florida, particularly from Central Florida,” he said. “So I think that that’s something that’s good.”

After taking office in January, DeSantis had advocated for more urban infrastructure, and he said Friday that the new toll roads probably won’t be enough to handle growth in the state.

“We’re probably going to need more than that just given the state’s growing and just given that traffic could be a big problem,” he said. “So I’m supportive of infrastructure.”

The signing happened minutes later at the Longboat Key Club, where Senate President Bill Galvano was hosting a golf tournament for his late father.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, made the new toll roads his top priority this legislative session, resurrecting an idea that had been cast aside by two previous governors over the last 15 years.

“This legislation is a long-term investment that will provide numerous benefits to our state infrastructure,” Galvano said in a statement.

Galvano was sold on the idea for the roads from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and road builders, which were by far the biggest supporters of the bill.

Those organizations praised DeSantis on Friday, while environmentalists decried his decision and vowed to fight it in court and in the Legislature.

“This decision will haunt the governor,” Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair Tim Martin said in a statement. “Teddy Roosevelt is probably rolling in his grave right now that a comparison was ever made between him and Gov. DeSantis.”

The bill could lead to three new roads in the state: A new road from Polk County to Collier County, extending the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia border and extending Florida’s Turnpike to the Suncoast.

It passed the Legislature with overwhelming support, although many key questions remain unanswered. Where exactly the roads would go, how much they would cost, how they would be paid for and whether they are necessary will be decided by Florida’s Department of Transportation.

The bill creates a new task force of state and local officials for each stretch of roadway, and those task forces will make recommendations to the state. But transportation officials do not have to follow the recommendations.

Under the bill, the state would start construction of the roads by 2022 and be finished by 2030.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on Tuesday, the first day of the annual session. The same day, the advocacy group Equality Florida denounced four bills filed by Republican lawmakers, calling them “the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory.” [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Most of the bills try to eliminate local ordinances, and Republicans say they’ve been unfairly labeled.
  2. Attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this photo of his client, Lev Parnas (right) with former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi on Friday, Jan. 17. Bondi on Friday was named on of President Donald Trump's impeachment lawyers. [Twitter]
    Parnas’ lawyer tweeted out the photo of the former Florida attorney general along with #TheyAllKnew.
  3. Florida Senator Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, watches the action on the first day of the session, 1/14/2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    A popular bill would allow judges to dole out punishments less than the mandatory minimum sentences spelled out in state law for many drug crimes if the defendant meets certain criteria.
  4. Vice President Mike Pence take selfies with supporters after giving a campaign speech during the "Keep America Great" rally at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, January 16, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    ‘Come November the American people are going to have our say,’ Pence said.
  5. Rep. Stan McClain, an Ocala Republican, presents a bill that would allow Florida public colleges and universities to sponsor charter schools, during a January 2020 meeting of the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    Alternative authorizers have been found unconstitutional in the past. But that isn’t stopping the effort.
  6. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, members of the Florida Cabinet, left, and the Florida Supreme Court, right, stand at attention as the colors are posted in the Florida Senate during the first day of the Florida legislative session in Tallahassee, Tuesday, January 14, 2020.  [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The court ruled that Amendment 4‘s “all terms of sentence” include the payment of all court fees, fines and restitution.
  7. Thousands rallied and marched from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to the Florida Historic Capitol to demand more money for public schools Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Thousands of school workers from around the state thronged Florida's Capitol on Monday to press Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.  (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER  |  AP]
    The PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee cutting exercise would come in nearly 25 percent below Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,, center, speaks as fellow candidates businessman Tom Steyer, from left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. listen, Tuesday during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
    The candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach the issue.
  9. Vice President Mike Pence points to supporters before speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) [TONY DEJAK  |  AP]
    Vice President Mike Pence will take the stage in New Tampa, at the Venetian Event Center at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, at 1:30 p.m. It wasn’t planned that way.
  10. <Samsung D70 / D75 / S730 / S750>
    For the first time since he was nominated by Gov. Ron DeSantis for the job of Florida Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees appeared before senators to answer questions that have been percolating for nine...
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement