1. Opinion

Now is the time to invest in Florida roads | Column

This is arguably the most important roadway effort undertaken in Florida since the Florida Turnpike.
A small line of cars forms in the only available toll lane on the Suncoast Parkway. Times (2016)
Published Aug. 15

In this divisive political environment, improving infrastructure is one of the only government actions people can often agree on. That’s why the Florida Legislature passed, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law, a bipartisan supported measure that will improve Florida’s transportation infrastructure.

Despite Florida’s current 21.6 million population, and growing by 900 people every day, this week a newspaper headline questioned the need for improved infrastructure, overlooking facts, and opting for sensationalized clickbait.

But the truth is, the facts support smarter infrastructure.

Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. [COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO]

Florida is growing fast. Florida Chamber Foundation research shows we can expect another 4.5 million new residents by 2030, and 3 million more drivers on Florida’s roadways by the same time period. On top of that, 50 million more annual visitors.

In fact, the Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition can demonstrate the expected population growth between now and 2030, for each of Florida’s 67 counties. The numbers support these new roads. These economic projections were developed from sound data, and available for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on

While Florida’s economy is stronger, our public budgets are healthier, and Florida is home to fresh perspectives that will continue to make us more competitive, there are challenges that come with 900 net new people moving here each day. Mainly, maintaining the safety and efficiency of our transportation system.

I understand there are some who will always oppose smart growth and economic opportunities, believing that a thriving economy cannot co-exist with responsible environmentalism or that our roadways are already adequate for the future. These are the same. And some will call these “roads to nowhere,” even though I highly doubt that cities like Lakeland, Ocala, Naples and others would consider themselves “nowhere.”

The U.S. Census Bureau says that Lee and Collier counties in Southwest Florida grew by 21.9 percent and 17.7 percent respectively in the last eight years. In Central Florida, Sumter, Osceola, Orange and Lake grew by 37.5 percent, 36.8 percent, 20.4 percent and 20 percent respectively over the same time period.

What these numbers tell us is that Florida’s urban areas are expanding, and our connections between them should be as strong as possible. Moving goods, residents and visitors is a paramount concern for Florida’s economy and that concern is felt by Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.

This is arguably the most important roadway effort undertaken in Florida since the Florida Turnpike. And now, the planning begins. Public and private stakeholders – including state agencies like the Department of Transportation, water management districts, regional planning councils, environmental groups, local government officials and non-profit organizations that are rooted in local communities across Florida – will join together to research three corridors that will help connect important Florida regions, empower rural communities and relieve congestion while also protecting our important natural environment.

This planning will also take into consideration new technologies like connected and autonomous vehicles, which are already on some Florida roadways. All of these things will happen alongside important environmental analyses and many, many stakeholder group meetings.

The Florida Chamber’s Infrastructure Coalition is focused on creating long-term investments in Florida’s energy, water, transportation, telecommunications, and other infrastructure. We’re pleased to have a seat at the table, joining more than 120 stakeholders, including 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon Florida, the Nature Conservancy, Florida Wildlife Corridor and other environmental organizations.

Yes, sometimes facts get in the way of agendas. But in this case, the facts cannot be denied – 26 million people will call Florida home by 2030.

We all have a stake in Florida’s future. Securing Florida’s future is more important now than ever.

Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at


  1. Emmett Till, shown with his mother, Mamie, was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi at age 14.
    Courage is why Emmett Till’s legacy is bulletproof. | Leonard Pitts Jr.
  2. Men and boys pose beneath the body of Lige Daniels, a black man, shortly after he was lynched on August 3, 1920, in Center, Texas.  This scene was turned into a postcard depicting the lynching.  The back reads, "He killed Earl's grandma. She was Florence's mother. Give this to Bud. From Aunt Myrtle." Wikimedia Commons
    Trump faces a constitutional process. Thousands of black men faced hate-filled lawless lynch mobs.
  3. Editorial cartoons for Wednesday CLAY BENNETT  |  Chattanooga Times Free Press
  4. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference in September. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    The Florida Senate will vote Wednesday whether to remove or reinstate former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. Facts, not partisan politics, should be the deciding factors.
  5. An ROTC drill team participates in competition.
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wednesday’s letters to the editor.
  6. On Oct. 17, 2019, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney arrives to a news conference, in Washington. On Sunday, Oct. 20, on "Fox News Sunday," after acknowledging the Trump administration held up aid to Ukraine in part to prod the nation to investigate the 2016 elections, Mulvaney defended Trump’s decision to hold an international meeting at his own golf club, although the president has now dropped that plan. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) EVAN VUCCI  |  AP
    Flagrant violations are still wrong, even if made in public. | Catherine Rampell
  7. In this photo released by the White House, President Donald Trump, center right, meets with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, standing left, congressional leadership and others on Oct. 16 in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via AP) SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD  |  AP
    The House speaker is increasingly is acting almost like a prime minister. | Eugene Robinson
  8.  Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal
  9. Medal of Honor recipient Robert Ingram Navy Medical History; Photo by Nick Del Calzo
    About 50 recipients visit the region this week to share their stories and reaffirm their permanent connections.
  10. The bipartisan Lower Health Care Costs Act would impose price controls on doctors. MICHAEL MCCLOSKEY  |  iStockPhoto
    U.S. Senate legislation aims to prevent surprise bills but actually would hurt doctors and patients, a James Madison Institute policy expert writes.