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M-CORES: 93% of the Public Against, Rural Florida at Risk, FDOT On-The-Spot

Photo of Florida Panthers with copy: M-CORES: It could be the end of the florida panther and a whole lot more. 25 billion of new toll roads. Is that what Florida really wants?
Photo: Michaelstone428 | Observer Graphic

TALLAHASSEE, FL – After 15 months of public meetings, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), on behalf of the M-CORES Task Force, has collected almost 10,000 public comments regarding the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES). Ninety-three percent of those making comments were opposed to the proposed corridors, which are to have a new toll running through each.

Building Through the Rural Heart of Florida

In 2019, the Florida state legislature passed Senate Bill 7068 to authorize the design and construction of 330 miles of new toll roads through the heart of rural Florida. If built, these new toll roads will destroy large swaths of Florida’s last remaining rural lands and communities, pollute waterways, and threaten endangered wildlife, including the iconic Florida panther.

The M-CORES legislation was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on May 17, 2019. The Governor ignored a veto request from over 90 organizations and businesses from across Florida.

In August 2019, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition (NRTR or Coalition)) was launched.

Now, 98 organizations and businesses strong, NRTR is devoted to stopping the unneeded and costly plan for 330 miles of new toll roads across the state. The steering committee includes representatives from the Center of Biological Diversity, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Conservation Voters, Florida Springs Council, Progress Florida, Save the Manatee Club, and Sierra Club.

Public Comments
Overwhelmingly Opposed to All M-CORES

Today, the NRTR held a virtual Zoom press conference releasing the compiled and categorized public comments made available to Coalition. The public's comments are consistent with opposition at Task Force meetings and are overwhelmingly opposed to continuing the M-CORES process.

M-CORES pubic comment pie chartHow opposed? 93 percent.

After 15 months of collecting public comments, the Florida Department of Transportation provided an incomplete and skewed record and accounting of public comment submissions.

While FDOT has shared the total count of comments received, 9,886, it has discounted the value of form letters and denied Task Force members and the public information regarding the sentiments and positions (anti, unclear, pro, etc.) expressed in those comments.

A small army of volunteer "comment counters" from across the state engaged in reading and categorizing each of the 9,886 comments. They identified the number of anti-M-CORES, pro-M-CORES, and unclear positions.

Kim Wheeler, Founder of "Rural Levy Says No Toll Roads," stated:  “Determining the position from each of the comment submissions was easy. I wish I could share all the comments with you. They are passionate, reasoned, and sometimes angry. The people against the roads talk about protecting our water and our wild places, habitats for panthers, black bears, and numerous birds. They talk about protecting our farms, ranches, and our rural way of life. They are against the toll roads because of the cost, worried more now with the revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people discussed the tourists who come here for our springs, rivers, and parks. Many people wrote about the need to repair the roads we have and to consider other means of transportation."

Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist, said, "What we found, after going through each of the comments, is that 93 percent of the public comments were opposed to the M-CORES program, 3 percent of the comments were unclear, and only 4 percent were in favor.“

Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, said, "It is pretty clear why FDOT omitted any mention of the public sentiment.  With well over 90 percent of comments opposing M-CORES, it doesn't support their public relations narrative.  FDOT has consistently claimed that 'public participation is vital to the M-CORES process,' but has refused to tell Task Force members the true extent of public opposition. The M-CORES process has been a sham from the beginning, and this just underscores that fact."

Sarah Younger, Chair of the Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club, said, "FDOT has gone to great lengths to obfuscate the truth and hide public sentiment...  At meetings, whether in-person or virtual, the public has been made to wait until the very end of the day, after many Task Force members have already left the building or the virtual space to make its comments." 

South Florida watercolor artist Kim Heise said, “Enough is enough already.  Shut M-CORES down.  This proves that everyone knows it is a disaster.”

Mr. Bleyer added, “FDOT is set to release final Task Force reports by November 15, 2020, and we expect the fact that 93 percent of all public comments were in opposition to M-CORES to be included in those reports. Task Force members have a duty to consider the public's overwhelming opposition as they finalize their report and recommendations to the Legislature and the Governor."


Today was the last day for the public to submit comments regarding the three draft Task Force reports. The Florida Department of Transportation didn't ask for M-CORES. It was not in any of its plans, which reach out over 30 years.

The Florida Legislature dropped M-CORES in its lap like a hot potato.

The ball is now in FDOT's court.

Cris Costello is the Regional Manager of the Sierra Club.

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