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The groups deciding the fate of Florida’s new toll roads meet in Tampa on Tuesday

It’s their first meeting, and the public is invited to attend.
A 2011 aerial photo of development along the intersection of State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway. This view is looking northwest. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
Published Aug. 26
Updated Aug. 26

Environmentalists, state and local government officials and private interests meet for the first time Tuesday to decide the routes of three controversial new toll roads in Florida.

The all-day meeting is at the Tampa Convention Center, and the public is invited to attend and give input. To see the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, click here. It lasts from 9 a.m. to at least 4:45 p.m.

The three task forces have the potential to reshape the state’s transportation network — or lead to urban sprawl and devastate local wildlife, depending on whom you believe.

Lawmakers passed a bill this session that would create three new toll roads in the state. It’s an idea introduced not by the Department of Transportation, which normally decides where new roads should go.

Instead, it was an old idea rejected by previous governors, but Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, championed it into law, claiming the roads will lead to growth in rural parts of the state.

One road would extend the Suncoast Parkway to Jefferson County near the Florida-Georgia border, another would extend Florida’s Turnpike to meet the Suncoast Parkway and a third would build an entirely new toll road from Polk County to Collier County.

The roads’ precise paths is being left up to the three task forces, one for each stretch. The Department of Transportation has the ultimate say on whether the roads would be build and how they’d be paid for.

On Tuesday, the roughly 40 people on each task force will meet for the first time and get an overview of their tasks ahead. Their reports, which are only advisory, are due in October 2020.

The public can submit comments at the event, but the only public comment period is at the end of the meeting, at 4:45 p.m.

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