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  1. Opinion

These are the roads to Florida’s future | Column

Jeb Bush explains why he favors the three toll roads of the M-CORES proposal.

Florida needs innovative ideas to ensure a promising future. The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program is exactly the kind of plan that will change Florida’s future for the better. This plan to create new roadways throughout Florida, in one form or another, has been discussed for decades. As a growing state, we must see it through, and to make sure it is done right, we must see it through now.

Jeb Bush on Monday announced the Tuesday release of the first chapter of a book he is writing based on emails from eight years as Florida governor. [AP photo]

Florida continues to attract hundreds of new residents every day. Our state leaders must anticipate and plan for future growth to ensure Floridians, as well as those visiting the state, are able to travel our roadways freely and safely. This is one of the main goals of M-CORES — to thoughtfully plan now for future growth, before it is too late. In addition to addressing traffic concerns, the plan also calls for exploring other various types of transportation, including freight and passenger rail, trails and public transit.

Alongside a growing population, Florida needs a growing economy. And in the midst of the current pandemic, it is especially important to look for opportunities to help our economy recover and come back stronger than before. The M-CORES program is expected to encourage economic development and job creation in areas that are particularly in need of revitalization. And additional corridors and transportation options can also encourage increased trade and commerce, a unique opportunity Florida is primed to seize as a peninsula with multiple ports.

During my time as governor of Florida, an especially devastating storm, Hurricane Charley, hit our state. We saw then the need to provide our state and citizens with safe, ample and accessible routes so Floridians do not have to worry about safely relocating their families in the event of an evacuation. Working with Florida’s committed public servants leading up to and during the numerous storms we weathered, we also learned that while we cannot plan natural disasters, we can anticipate and prepare accordingly. The M-CORES program helps us do just that by providing additional evacuation routes and options for emergency personnel to safely and efficiently do their job.

In addition to all the great things I know M-CORES can accomplish, I also believe it can do so while balancing the protection of our state’s natural resources and the environment with the infrastructure required. Florida has precious water, waterways, lands and wildlife, and the M-CORES plan takes these important aspects into account. The protection of Florida’s environment is, and rightfully should be, a top priority of the M-CORES plan.

I am pleased the task forces currently examining the corridors are made up of a wide variety of experts and representatives from environmental organizations, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local water management districts, among many others.

The M-CORES plan has long been needed. Florida is growing, and we can’t stop it, nor should we. We need to be rising to meet this demand, rather than shrinking from it. And the time to do so is now. By being practical with the way we do this – making the corridors multi-use with different modes of transportation, utilities and broadband – the M-CORES plan has the potential to deliver many benefits for Florida. All of which can be done while still protecting the vital natural resources we have been blessed to steward.

I encourage Florida decision-makers — local, regional and state — to come together to support this smart growth plan. It is what is best for Florida, our current and future citizens, and our environment.

Jeb Bush, a Republican, was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.

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