Suncoast Connector toll road plan largely rolled back

On June 24, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law Senate Bill 100, which repeals and replaces the M-CORES plan to build 330 miles of toll roads throughout Florida. SB 100 cancels plans for the Southwest Florida Connector toll road between Polk and Collier counties. Also gone are M-CORES various programs and initiatives that would have encouraged residential and commercial development in rural portions of Florida.

Instead, SB 100 focuses limited roadway improvements on US 19 — only on congested areas well south of Jefferson County; maintains the vast majority of US 19 in its current configuration — thereby avoiding unnecessary construction that would harm natural resources and working rural lands; and saves billions of scarce tax dollars.

Tall Timbers applauds the efforts by the Florida Senate in crafting and passing SB 100 and the Florida House in unanimously supporting this bill. We especially appreciate Senator Gayle Harrell for drafting SB 100 and Representative Randolph Bracy for championing measures from the Toll Road Task Force Reports to protect the environment and vulnerable communities.

The significant scaling down of the Suncoast Connector toll road project was the product of hard work by dedicated Jefferson County residents, conservation organizations around Florida — including Tall Timbers, and thousands of residents throughout the state who opposed this project.

M-CORES is a cautionary tale of the considerable impact that legislative proposals can have on our natural resources and rural communities. At the same time, it’s an affirmation of the power of collaboration among conservation organizations and an energized, informed public.

Tall Timbers encourages residents of the Red Hills and the Florida Big Bend to continue paying close attention to issues large and small that could affect our irreplaceable natural resources, productive working rural lands, and rural land use traditions that make these areas so distinct.

For additional information: Contact Neil Fleckenstein at Tall Timbers.

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