State launches website for new toll road planning

By The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida transportation officials have set up a website for “citizen engagement” on three planned toll roads on the western side of the state.

Called "Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance," or M-CORES, state lawmakers have promoted the new roads as critical to help Florida prepare for future growth and to aid in disaster evacuations.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said the website, www.FloridaMCores.com, will provide updates on the separate corridors and allow people to give input on the plans.

“The Department places public engagement as one of the highest priorities and we welcome public feedback throughout this initial thirteen-month evaluation process,” Thibault said.

The toll-road law (SB 7068), a top priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, seeks to expand the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and add a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.

During the legislative session this spring, environmental groups warned that the roads will destroy wetlands. But Thibault said “protecting the environment and natural resources will be a priority” during the process of developing the road plans.

The law requires task forces to be established for each road, to study the environmental and economic impacts of potential routes.

Lawmakers designated $45 million towards the work in the current year, with annual funding expected to grow to $140 million a year.

The M-Cores program has “multiple goals,” according to the press release, including “job creation and revitalizing rural communities.”  

Transportation officials are planning to hold task force meetings and public hearings “in various cities as we seek to hear the voices from all communities and stakeholders around the state,” the release said.

News Service of Florida