Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Statewide Alliance of 90 Urge Governor DeSantis to VETO “Roads to Ruin” Tollway Bill

For Immediate Release                                                                                           
May 1, 2019

Contact: Frank Jackalone,, 727-824-8813,  EXT 302; 727-804-1317
Paul Owens,, 850-222-6277 EXT 102, 407-222-2301

Florida taxpayers, rural communities, the Everglades, and water quality are at risk

Tallahassee – Today 90 conservation organizations, civic groups, and businesses representing the Panhandle to the Keys sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis urging him to veto the Transportation Corridor bill, SB 7068, when it arrives on his desk.
The letter to the Governor follows similar letters sent to the Senate and House last week and will test the Governor’s post-inaugural declarations of dedication to protecting the Everglades, the springs, and the state’s water quality.
The letter:

May 1, 2019
The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Plaza Level 05, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399

RE:  Veto proposed toll roads – SB 7068

Dear Governor DeSantis:

The 90 below-signed organizations ask that you veto legislation that seeks to construct three toll roads through rural Florida. These highways will not reduce traffic or provide safety during hurricane events.

1000 Friends of Florida found in its Florida 2070 report that Florida is on track to increase developed land to a full third of the State in the next half century. Sprawl is not progress. These toll roads will cost Florida hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and rural lands and fragment landscape and wildlife habitat. The intended “benefits” of these toll roads include water and sewer infrastructure which, with on and off ramps, will accelerate urban sprawl.

This legislation would carve three corridors through Florida’s undeveloped areas:
  • "Southwest-Central Florida Connector" extending from Collier County to Polk County; a previous highway planned for the route was called the Heartland Parkway
  •  "Suncoast Connector" extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County
  •  "Northern Turnpike Connector" extending from the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway

Building these roads will be very expensive. The funding would grow from $45 million next fiscal year to $90 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, about $135 million the next year, and a recurring amount of $140 million starting in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. And that’s just for planning. Billions will be bonded to actually build hundreds of miles of limited access highways. Florida will be paying off the debt for more than a generation instead of funding education, healthcare, or needed infrastructure for wastewater, drinking water, and the roads and bridges we already have.

These hugely expensive road projects and accompanying urban sprawl will devastate habitat for the Florida Panther and dozens of other endangered and threatened Florida species.  They will destroy important wetlands, forests, springs, and aquifer recharge areas from Florida Bay to the Georgia border even though they would not serve an identified transportation purpose. In fact, the FDOT Interstate 75 Relief Task Force recommended in 2016 that rather than new roads, a better approach was expanding the vehicle capacity of the interstate and connecting highways.

Transit and planning relieve congestion, not building roads. Relieving congestion in urban areas requires a focus on transit. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 Report Card notes that only 2% of Floridians’ commutes to work were made by public transit and that Florida needs to develop and connect its transit networks with an additional $1.3 billion investment.

Road building is not a sustainable economic development strategy for rural communities.  In fact, these roads will route traffic away from communities established on existing roads, harming their economies.

New tollways through west-central Florida are not the answer to hurricane preparedness.  Floridians need more safe spaces in their communities to shelter during storms; only 42% of schools are designated hurricane shelters, indicating many schools do not meet the structural requirements.  Providing safe shelters for evacuees is a more practical and affordable response to extreme weather events than new toll expressways.

We urge you to spend Florida tax payer dollars wisely and reject the toll roads.


1000 Friends of Florida
Thomas Hawkins, Policy & Planning Director

Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Georgia Ackerman, Riverkeeper and Executive Director

Aquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, President

Around the Bend Nature Tours LLC
Karen Fraley Willey, CIG, Manager/Naturalist

E. Allen Stewart III, P.E. Managing Partner

Audubon Everglades
Scott Zucker, Vice President & Conservation Co-Chair

Bullsugar Alliance
Alex Gillen, Policy Director

Catalyst Miami
Gretchen Beesing, CEO

Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director

Central Florida Astronomical Society
Eric Hoin, President

Chart 411
Lucinda Johnston, Executive Director

Citizens For Sanity
Dan Rametta, Director

City of Seminole Community Garden
Mary Ann Kirk, Garden Coordinator

Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County
Judy Orcutt, Vice President

Concerned Citizens of Bayshore Community, Inc.
Steven Brodkin, Vice President/Secretary

Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Nicole Johnson, Director of Environmental Policy
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast
Christine P. Johnson, President

Deep Spring Farm
Leela Robinson, Organic Farmer

Defenders of Wildlife
Kent L. Wimmer, AICP, Senior Representative

Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DECF)
Michael Newett, President

Ding Darling Wildlife Society
Mike Baldwin, President

Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
Laurie Murphy, Executive Director

Englewood Indivisible
Jane Hunter, Leader

Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida (ECOSWF)
Becky Ayech, President

Environment Florida
Jennifer Rubiello, State Director

Farmworker Association of Florida
Antonio Tovar, Interim Executive Director

Florida Bay Forever - Save Our Waters
Elizabeth Jolin, Director

Florida Conservation Voters
Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director

Florida Defenders of the Environment
Jim Gross PG, CPG, Executive Director

Florida Keys Environmental Fund, Inc.
Charles Causey, President

Florida Native Plant Society
Susan Carr, President

Florida Native Plant Society, Conradina Chapter
Carol Hebert, President

Florida Native Plant Society, Pine Lily Chapter
Karina Veaudry, President

Florida PIRG
Matt Casale, Transportation Campaign Director

Florida Policy Institute
Sadaf Knight, CEO

Florida Poor People’s Campaign
Dr. Carolynn Zonia, Leadership Team Member

Florida Voices for Health
Scott Darius, Executive Director

Florida Water Conservation Trust
Terry Brant, Legislative Chairman

Florida Wildlife Federation
Preston Robertson, President

Forging Alliances, Inc.
Alexander Easdale, Owner/Principal

Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Catherine Patterson, President

Friends of Split Oak Forest
Valerie Anderson, President

Friends of the Everglades
Philip Kushlan, President

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Inc.
Juliette Jones, Director  

Hands Along The Water
Samantha Gentrup, President

Ichetucknee Alliance, Inc.
John D. Jopling, President

Indivisible Action Tampa Bay  
Christine Hanna, Founder

Indivisible Clay County
Sandy Goldman, Chair

Indivisible Mandarin
Karen Droege, Chair

Indivisible St. Johns
Mary Lawrence, Founder

Indivisible Venice
Charles Rusman, Lead Team

International Dark Sky Association, FL Chapter
Diana Umpierre, Chair

Izaak Walton League of America, Florida Keys Chapter
Michael F. Chenoweth, President

Lake Worth Waterkeeper
Reinaldo Diaz, Waterkeeper/President

League of Women Voters of Florida
Patricia Brigham, President

Lobby For Animals
Thomas Ponce, Founder/President

Marion Audubon Society
Barbara Schwartz, Conservation Chair

Martin County Conservation Alliance
Donna Melzer, Chair

Miakka Community Club
Cathy Lewis

Natural Resources Defense Council
Alison Kelly, Senior Attorney, Lands
Nature Program

NW St. Johns County United for Progress
Richard Chapman, President

Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
Michael Roth, President

Peace Justice Sustainability Florida
Alice Wujciak, Member Activist

Peace Home Campaigns
David Gibson, Organizing Director

Pelican Island Audubon
Richard Baker, Ph.D., President

Progress Florida
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director

Rainbow River Conservation, Inc.
Burton Eno, PhD, President

Rebah Farm
Carol Ahearn, Owner

ReLEAF Sarasota
Leslie Harris-Senac, Board of Directors

Responsible Growth Management Coalition
Connie Langmann, President

Rum 138, LLC
Merrillee Jipson, Owner

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation
Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy Director

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association Inc. (SFLDA)
Jill McGuire, President

Save the Manatee Club
Katie Tripp, Ph.D., Director of Science and Conservation

Seminole United Methodist Church Community Garden
Bob Huttick, Garden Coordinator

Sierra Club Florida
Frank Jackalone, Chapter Director

South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association
Monroe Pattillo, President

South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Southern Cross Astronomical Society
Russ Brick, President

Southwest Florida Astronomical Society
Brian Risley, President

Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Philip E. Stasik, President

Speak Up Wekiva, Inc.
Chuck O’Neal, President

Springs Eternal Project
John Moran, Co-director

St. Johns Riverkeeper
Lisa Rinaman, Riverkeeper

Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder

Suncoast Waterkeeper
Andy Mele, Interim Executive Director

Sunshine Citizens, Inc.
Christopher Vela, President

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper
Andrew Hayslip, Executive Director and Waterkeeper

The Florida Sandhill Crane Preservation Society
Jeanie W. Donohue, President & Founder Emeritus

WWALS Watershed Coalition
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper