The next round of public discussions on controversial toll-road projects from Collier County to Jefferson County will again be held through a combination of online and in-person meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced last week that three “hybrid” meetings will be held this week. Task forces working on the projects will meet online before public-comment periods are held online and at designated physical locations.
In advance of the meetings, the growth-management group 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club jointly released a report Thursday called “M-CORES: A Detour Around Accountability,” which questions the need and fiscal feasibility of the roads. M-CORES is an acronym used for the multi-use corridor projects.
The report puts the potential costs tied to the roads in the next decade at $26.4 billion — based on numbers developed by Florida TaxWatch and the cost of the Wekiva Parkway — and said the projects bypassed the usual state transportation Corridor Planning Process.
“For these reasons, 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club are calling on Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to take action during the upcoming special session or during the 2021 Florida legislative session to cease funding Florida M-CORES to allow our state to address much more pressing needs,” the groups said in a statement.
No special legislative session is currently planned. Approved during the 2019 legislative session, the road projects are intended to extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County; extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and add a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.
A hybrid meeting is scheduled Tuesday on the Southwest-Central Florida corridor between Polk and Collier counties, with members of the public able to physically attend at the Charlotte Harbor Conference Center in Punta Gorda and the Bert Harris Agricultural Center Auditorium in Sebring.
A turnpike extension meeting on Wednesday will be open at the Plantation on Crystal River and the Sumter County Fairgrounds in Bushnell. The task force on the northern extension of the Suncoast Parkway is Thursday at the Plantation on Crystal River and the Dixie County Adult Education Center in Old Town.