1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Task forces will get more scrutiny over toll roads, Florida officials announce

After frustration about their oversight of three potential new toll roads, the department moved up their timeline for scrutinizing the projects.
The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway was built in Tampa as toll road. Commissioners are divided over an elevated toll road proposed for southern Pasco.
The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway was built in Tampa as toll road. Commissioners are divided over an elevated toll road proposed for southern Pasco.
Published Nov. 11, 2019
Updated Nov. 11, 2019

State transportation officials announced additional meetings and resources for the task forces studying three new proposed toll roads.

After outcry from task force members, the Department of Transportation said Friday that it was adding two more public meetings and getting data on the potential projects to members sooner than previously scheduled.

“The department certainly heard the feedback,” department spokeswoman Beth Frady said in a statement Friday.

During last month’s meeting, task force members complained that they were not getting enough time or information to properly scrutinize the potential projects, which would be Florida’s largest expansion of toll roads in decades.

RELATED STORY: DeSantis approved these toll roads. So where’s the reason to build them?

“We need to talk about the demand for people to pay tolls, right? What is projected revenue and what are projected costs?” task force member Thomas Hawkins, a land planner and University of Florida program director, said at last month’s meeting. “I don’t see it anywhere on this sheet. That’s a problem.”

Other task force members asked for additional meetings to study the justification for the projects. Their questions prompted one department secretary to tell them to stop asking questions about why the roads were needed.

The frustration stems from the tight timelines lawmakers gave the task forces — and the Department of Transportation — to study, plan and build the three potential roads. One project would extend the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia border, another would extend Florida’s Turnpike to the Suncoast and another would build a new road linking Polk to Collier counties

When lawmakers passed a bill this session to build more than 300 miles of toll roads, they gave task force members until just October 2020 to issue their recommendations. Construction would start in 2022, with the roads being finished by 2030.

RELATED STORY: Florida Senate president calls transportation’s five-year planning ‘not realistic’ for toll roads projects

The roads were the priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, even though the Department of Transportation hadn’t included the roads in its long-term plans. Galvano last month called the department’s typical five-year road-planning process “not realistic” for the projects because the roads were urgently needed.

He justified the roads on three main grounds: that they would alleviate congestion on Interstate 75, would stimulate the economy in rural Florida and would provide new hurricane evacuation routes.

But neither he nor the department have ever provided any data backing up those claims. Task force members weren’t scheduled to even take up those topics until March.

Now the task forces will be talking about them in December, and the department will be data about those topics ahead of that meeting. The department also added two more meetings, in February and April, to their agendas.

“By facilitating additional meetings, I am confident the department is providing the support task force members need so they may complete the required assessments, which are so paramount to this process," Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said in a statement.


  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...