Friday, March 29, 2019

Roads To Ruin Advance In Legislature; Opposition Needed

Plans to push a new set of roads into rural areas of Florida at the expense of wildlife habitat protection and preventing urban sprawl are advancing in the Florida Legislature with support in the House, which until recently had taken no position.

One of these roads, which would run from Polk to Collier County, revives an idea proposed 15 years ago at a time when the road-building and development lobbies were also pushing a cross state toll road from Manatee County to Indian River County that would have crossed the Lake Wales Ridge, the Kissimmee and Upper St. Johns rivers, bisecting key wildlife habitat.

The southwest corridor under consideration would affect key corridors important to the Florida panther and Florida black bear and doom plans to preserve a natural statewide wildlife corridor system.

Interestingly, plans for a second toll road extension between the Tampa Bay area and the Big Bend area  drew support from a group called the Environmental Caucus of Florida, which maintains that the road is needed to reduce traffic  congestion in the Tampa Bay area so greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
This is misguided. The new roads will not cut vehicle emissions, only displace them to other parts of the state. In the meantime, the construction of the roads and the development they will generate will lead to the destruction of native habitat, reducing carbon capture and other ecosystem services.
In addition, these unnecessary  projects will  divert limited state revenue away from real public needs.
Although some legislators are supporting the push for the roads because the studies that must precede their further planning, engineering and construction have not occurred, experience shows us that once powerful political forces push projects, the studies are only a formality. 

Everyone should contact their legislators to oppose this idea before it goes any further.