Plans for new toll roads in Florida

Published: Apr. 4, 2019 at 4:53 PM CDT
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Could the highway of the future be in Florida’s future?

State lawmakers are putting aside millions this year to create three new toll roads, but the idea has environmentalists spooked and others see opportunity.

Slow evacuations and an even slower return after Hurricane Irma prompted a new look at new roads. Now the state is poised to set aside $45 million this year to study three ideas.

The first would create a new road through the center of the state. The second would extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to the Georgia line. The third would extend the current turnpike to meet up with the Suncoast Parkway.

“Every area of our state is not doing equally great,” said Senate President Bill Galvano.

Galvano is the driving force behind the idea.

“It’s a multi-purpose corridor that includes both water and sewer opportunities as well as broadband,” said Galvano.

Environmentalists worry the billions these roads are going to cost is going to take money from places it's really needed.

"So we’re talking billions of dollars that will have to be bonded. When You spend money in place A, you don’t have it to spend in place B,” said David Cullen with the Sierra Club.

Retired highway planner Amy Datz says there’s an opportunity to build the road of the future.

“There is enough right of way to put in a light rail if and when that comes up. We can also have two-way bus lanes in the center. We can have solar panels, every let's say one hundred miles for electric car recharging,” said Data.

The legislation requires construction to begin by 2022 and be completed by 2030.

Funding for the roads doubles to $90 million next year and $135 million each year after that.