April 12, 2019

Investment in Sunshine State Families, Not Tolled Expressways, Will Improve Quality of Life in Rural Communities

There is a bill making its way through the state Legislature right now that would create tolled expressways through three designated corridors in Florida: the Southwest-Central Florida Connector, the Suncoast Connector, and the Northern Turnpike Connector.

The Florida Policy Institute has written previously on the importance of investing in infrastructure — things like updated roads and bridges, climate resilient buildings, and modernized schools. Unfortunately, HB 7113/SB 7068 misses the mark, jeopardizing Florida’s numerous parks, reserves, and refuges.

The bill text states that the purpose of the corridors is to “revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation in those communities, and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources.” Saying that Florida has a spotty history when it comes to conservation is an understatement, as in the past decade alone lawmakers have taken hundreds of millions in Florida Forever dollars — earmarked for state land acquisition — to use for other areas of the budget. Plus, the endangered lands that Florida has acquired under this program would, as the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club recently pointed out, be threatened under the expressways bill.

The Sunshine State is underfunding those things that truly give rural families a boost and generate economic activity, like quality schools that prepare students for college and work and affordable health care. Constructing tolled expressways in a state that already has the most toll road mileage in the nation, and in a way that could harm parks and wildlife, will do little to help residents.

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