I grew up in Florida, so I can say this. Florida is famous (infamous) for its toll road boondoggles. If you live in Citrus, Levy, Marion, or Sumter countries, you’re at ground zero for a proposed turnpike extension that’s bad for you, the land, the panthers, and your pocketbook.
There’s been a continuing disconnect between what the people in your part of the state say you don’t want and what the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) seems bound and determined to shove down your throats.
As the No Roads to Ruin coalition says, “FDOT’s current approach to SB 100 completely ignores (1) the overwhelming public opposition, (2) the M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force’s failure to find any need for a northern extension of the turnpike, (3) the M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force’s findings on the fragility of the region’s environmental and agricultural resources, and (4) the reality that this folly is wasting, once again, precious Florida taxpayer dollars.”
This graphic from the coalition’s website sums up the situation nicely:
The evidence shows that the FDOT proposal is bad for water, wildlife, health, taxpayers, agriculture, rural communities, and the climate. It’s not just the roads themselves, it’s the sprawl and pollution that follow.
There’s also a disconnect between FDOT and the damage it does. My primary concern is the endangered Florida Panther. Estimates vary, but there are less than 200 left.
Wildlife ecologist Randy Kautz, writing at the request of the Nature Conservancy, said, “The construction of a new toll road expressway from Central into Southwest Florida is likely to have two primary effects on Florida panthers. First, there will be a direct loss of panther habitat within the footprint of the new road. Second, the toll road will accelerate the predicted loss of panther habitats, increase roadkill mortality, result in increasing fragmentation of remaining panther habitats, and likely jeopardize panther population survival by facilitating the movement of new residents and developments into regions of Southwest Florida that are now rural.”
FDOT doesn’t care about the panther or the water or the agriculture, much less the quality of life. Its job is to bring money into the state with toll roads and the tax money generated by sprawl. Your protests will never change FDOT’s thinking. The only thing to do is lean on the public, the legislature, the governor–and if need be–the courts to stop its absurd fixation on paving over the state.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels are set in the Florida Panhandle where FDOT devastation isn’t as extreme as it is in the peninsular part of the state.