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  1. Opinion

Here are the opinions you need to read about the push for new Florida toll roads | Opinion

On Tuesday, three task forces will meet to discuss the proposed new toll road corridors.
Orange barrels and cones will remain part of the landscape as the state continues work on the widening of Cortez Boulevard and improvements along the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 19.
Published Aug. 26

Have you heard about the toll roads that could be coming to Florida?

A meeting Tuesday in Tampa of three task forces will begin to discuss the toll roads proposed to cut through Florida in three spots: connecting southwest and central Florida between Collier County and Polk County, extending the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway and connecting the most northern part of the state with northwest Florida from Citrus County to Jefferson County by extending the Suncoast Parkway as well.

Members of the task forces were chosen by the Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault. They include members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Trucking Association and the Florida Internet and Television Association, all organizations that stand to benefit from the construction of these toll roads. They also include environmentalists and officials from state and local government.

The meeting begins at 9 a.m. and public comment begins at 4:45 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. The agenda is available here.

In advance of the group’s first meeting, here’s a look back at recent commentary on both sides of these potential toll road corridors that could change Florida.

A sponsor’s view

Why are the transportation corridor bills barreling their way to votes on their respective chamber floors without much opposition from our senators and representatives? It has something to do with the fact that Florida Senate President Bill Galvano has it as a top priority. And who wants to mess with the Senate president?

Florida Senate president Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, proposed the extension of the toll roads as a priority this year. In this column for the Times, he argues why the toll roads will be so much more than mere roadways.

A conservationist’s view

A black bear [CARLTON WARD JR. | National Geographic Image Collection]

National Geographic photographer Carlton Ward Jr., a Florida native, has long advocated for the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which offers Florida’s animals habitat unencumbered by development and traffic. His column reminds the task forces to consider the environment and wildlife when they are planning the toll roads.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s View

The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. 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. [Stephen J. Coddington | TIMES]

Florida is growing by 900 people every day, says the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO, Mark Wilson. By 2030, the state can expect another 4.5 million new residents and 3 million more drivers on Florida’s roadways. That means we’ll need more roads, he writes in this column.

An environmental advocate’s view

The northern reaches of the Suncoast Parkway often don't get much traffic. Times (2017)

The writer of this column, Lindsay Cross, serves as the government relations director for the Florida Conservation Voters, an organization that attempts to get officials elected who will support the environment. In her column, Cross asks why so many special interests are represented on these task forces that will plan the state’s future?

Our view

A small line of cars forms in the only available toll lane on the Suncoast Parkway on Jan. 27, 2016, in Tampa. (Times | 2016)

“How convenient: The very groups that will advise the state on new toll roads that nobody asked for and nobody can afford are the same monied interests who stand to make a killing from these publicly subsidized corridors for sprawl.” Read the rest of the editorial here.

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