Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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M-CORES: Proposed New Toll Roads Threaten Rural Florida and is a Bad Deal for Floridians

Lindsay Cross in Perry, December, 2019, before addressing FDOT and the Suncoast Task Force members.   Photo: Columbia County Observer

The Multiuse Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program seeks to create 330 new miles of toll roads through some of our best remaining natural and rural areas.

 Beginning with the passage of SB7068 in 2019, it has represented bad government from the start and threatens to destroy what makes our state special.

Links to M_CORES articlesMore than 90 organizations and businesses have opposed the roads as part of the No Roads to Ruin Coalition and thousands of Floridians have submitted written or verbal comments against the roads.

Beginning in August 2019, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has held a series of task force meetings to review and provide input on three proposed new toll road corridors. Appointed task force members include representatives from special interest groups, state government agencies, environmental nonprofits, and planning organizations.

On November 15, 2020, the task forces will deliver a final report to FDOT, the Governor, and the Legislature. Despite overwhelming public opposition and significant concern by some task force members, FDOT is pushing all Task Force members to sign onto a consensus report.

During the last round of meetings, I addressed the task forces requesting they reject the roads and advocate for a No Build Option.

I told members that I represent Florida Conservation Voters and am a steering committee member of the No Roads to Ruin Coalition.

I asked the task force members not to sign onto a consensus report unless it included No Build.

I continued, “Many decisions are riding on this report. If the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and legislative leaders respect the Task Force Report findings, it will shape the future of our state.”

“If the Task Force findings are just a rubber-stamping exercise, then the whole M-CORES process has been a sham.”

“I appreciate the concerns that many Task Force members have raised about the needs to protect water, wildlife, agriculture, and rural communities. These are the things that Floridians care deeply about.”

“FDOT has stated that the Task Force report is the foundation for the M-CORES program. Yet, the very foundation for this program is not solid.”

“M-CORES was conceived, not from local communities, but as a political pet project. The legislation is so expertly crafted that the funding – which has increased despite an economic pandemic – is nearly impossible to undo. It plays upon our emotions by highlighting fears like hurricanes or scarcity in our rural communities.”

“Task Force members and the public have heard that a piecemeal approach may be taken if we can’t afford to build all 330 miles. Concern about funding sources and whether local communities – those that will bear the direct destruction from these roads – will have to foot a portion of the bill is a distinct possibility.”

“There is so much that has been promised, but if we can’t afford the roads, how likely is it that local communities will get broadband or sewer?”

“Hurricane evacuation is also lauded as a goal of the program. However, Florida has not conducted a statewide evacuation study for more than ten years. It would be foolish to invest in new roads until there is data to support any of these roads as evacuation routes.”

“Despite lip service about letting local governments maintain power, the legislation requires local municipalities to change their comprehensive plans to be consistent with M-CORES, not the other way around.”

“FDOT admits that M-CORES does not follow its typical planning process, that it has an aggressive timeline, and that they are being tasked with things outside of their normal duties.”

“Neither FDOT nor anyone else has demonstrated the need for up to 330 new miles of toll roads.”

“FDOT has not demonstrated that this project is financially viable. We know from reports, including Florida TaxWatch and 1000 Friends that the total project could cost between 25 to 30 billion dollars. That’s a whole lot of money, even in good economic times. We are not in good economic times now.”

“The fundamental questions about need and economics continue to get pushed off further into the future, yet, we’ve already spent millions of dollars on this process. The public deserves answers before another dime is spent.”

“A prudent person looks first for a strong and secure foundation upon which to build a house.”

“This process is attempting to slap together a McMansion on a sinkhole.”

“Floridians overwhelmingly are against these Roads To Ruin. Nobody has demonstrated that the roads are needed or that we can pay for them.”

“Task Force members should not sign onto a consensus report unless it includes "No Build.""

Lindsay Cross is the government relations director for Florida Conservation Voters and a member of the steering committee of the No Roads to Ruin coalltion.

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