Advertisement
  1. Transportation

Protestors to Gov. Ron DeSantis: Veto toll road bill

Protesters gathered Tuesday evening in downtown St. Petersburg’s Williams Park to speak out against a bill that would authorize a toll road to Georgia. At right, Tim Martin, of the Sierra Club Florida, urged the public to call the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis and ask him to veto the measure. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
Published May 14

ST. PETERSBURG — About 100 people attended a protest Tuesday evening in Williams Park against two bills they said would do great damage to Florida's environment.

Citizens, politicians and environmentalists urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto one bill that would build a toll road to Georgia and another that they say would make it more difficult for people to challenge development decisions in court. Some wore animal masks — foxes, owls and badgers dotted the crowd — while others waived neon signs with phrases like, "Don't pave me, bro" and "Animals don't walk on toll roads."

RELATED: Florida Legislature signs off on massive toll road projects, sending bill to the governor

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano unveiled his toll road plans in January, pushing a massive expansion of the Suncoast Parkway through the Senate. The bill now sits on the governor's desk, awaiting his signature.

Galvano said building the roads through the state's rural, environmentally sensitive areas could boost the economy of small towns.

But leaders in several of the counties in the path of the extended Suncoast Parkway have made it clear they want no toll roads slicing through and destroying farms that have been in the same families for generations.

Environmental groups also have opposed the project, condemning it as a way to spread sprawl and destroy areas important to recharging the aquifer and providing habitat for imperiled species.

State Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, voted against the bill and spoke at Tuesday's rally. He acknowledged that more people are moving to Florida and the state faces significant transportation issues, but said this project fails to address the real issues: congestion within urban communities.

"I recognize that our state is growing, but come on," Diamond said. "This bill proposes all the wrong solutions to our problems."

Several in the crowd said they attended the downtown rally because of their love for hiking, wildlife and Florida's natural areas. Some brought their children so they could see a peaceful protest to protect the environment.

Helaina Adams, 11, goes hiking with her mom and wants to make sure Florida's wildlife is protected for generations to come. She said she's concerned that this project, which "is more than just a road" would tear down hundreds of miles of habitats and threaten the Florida panther and other species.

Alan Brand, 58, of Dunedin criticized politicians for supporting the two bills and urged DeSantis to follow through on his campaign promises and protect the environment.

"They're laying down Florida at the altar of the automobile," Brand said. "This is just a high visibility example of back-room dirty dealings."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. In this Feb. 23, 2015 photo, a car is hauled from a canal in West Palm Beach, Fla. The driver was taken to a local hospital where he died. Palm Beach County has over 300 miles of canals, built to move water. Since 1997, 181 people have drowned in vehicles that ended in canals. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP) LANNIS WATERS  |  AP
    Of the nearly 1,100 people nationwide who died from 2013 to 2017 when vehicles went into water, 1 in 6 died in Florida.
  2. Dr. Daniel P. Greenwald, a well-known Tampa plastic surgeon, died on Oct. 5 when his twin-engine plane crashed soon after taking off from Kokomo Municipal Airport in Indiana. Greenwald family | Tim Bath/The Kokomo Tribune via AP
    An employee at the Kokomo Municipal Airport said Dr. Daniel P. Greenwald told him he wanted jet fuel for the Piper Aerostar. A friend says there’s no way he would have knowingly done so.
  3. Rekira Owens, a bus driver with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, greets officials from behind a newly installed shield as they board a bus Thursday in Tampa. The clear divider is meant to protect drivers from physical assaults after a driver was killed in Tampa this year. CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The two transit agencies took action after a Hillsborough driver was stabbed and killed by a rider earlier this year.
  4. A car on the south side of Cleveland Street at Osceola Avenue on Tuesday in downtown Clearwater. That block of Cleveland Street, which ends at Fort Harrison Avenue, provides 16 short term metered parking spaces, at left and right.
    The change to the new system will be gradual.
  5. The Florida Department of Transportation originally closed the southbound I-275 ramp to northbound I-75 for 10 months to replace the entire bridge deck of the overpass, but it's taken more than a year to complete. A detour was created that will have drivers exit on the US-41 exit to take that road to College Avenue where drivers can get back to I-75.
    When the project originally began on July 29, 2018, the Department of Transportation projected it would take 10 months to complete. A year and change later, some readers don’t see an end date in...
  6. Delta will offer nonstop flights between Tampa and Seattle in March 2020. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)
    The daily flights expand Tampa International Airport’s connections to the Pacific coast.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    Axel R. Figueroa was headed south on U.S. 41 when he left the road, overcorrected and collided with a tree, the Highway Patrol said.
  8. Pinellas County officials are focusing on reducing congestion, improving safety and enhancing transit as they consider more than $400 million in transportation projects. They're also looking at how to pay for it all, and the options include tax increases. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A sales tax, a property tax and a gas tax are among the options as officials consider a wish list totaling more than $400 million.
  9. Traffic heads west along Interstate 275 (at right) toward the Howard Frankland Bridge in Tampa. TIMES (2017)  |  Elliott, Loren
    Hillsborough Commissioner Pat Kemp was caught in the mess. Now, the state is smoothing the path to I-275.
  10. St. Pete Beach will offer free shuttles to Pass-a-Grille. St. Pete Beach
    The service will replace PSTA buses south of the Don Cesar hotel
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement