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Controversial Toll Road Bill To Be Signed By DeSantis

picture of sign on florida toll road
The future for Florida?

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday morning he will sign a bill instructing the state to build two new toll roads and extend a third through rural parts of the state.

"It's something I will sign," he said during a bill-signing ceremony in Sarasota.

The bill that is sitting on the governor's desk has raised the ire of environmentalists, who say the roads will fuel massive sprawl, which could destroy much of natural Florida.

Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said earlier this week she didn't know if DeSantis will sign or veto the toll road bill. But, she said,  DeSantis has shown his committment to the environment, and he looks at things through "a wide prism."

" I know that they have looked at it from a readiness standpoint with regards to hurricanes and the ability to really facilitate with folks that are trying to avoid a storm, like what we saw with Irma," she said. "So I know that's an issue that comes up from time to time, so he'll look at it from a wide variety of perspectives."

The toll road expansion was pushed by Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton. He says it would ease traffic on the state's major north-south highways and promote development of rural areas.

The proposal would extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County north to the Georgia border, extend the Florida Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway and build a new transportation corridor from Polk County to Collier County.

Galvano has said the roads would help rural communities, address the state’s continued rapid growth, provide new hurricane-evacuation options, expand bicycle and pedestrian trails and lay the groundwork for new water and sewer lines and broadband.

The proposal calls for construction to begin by the end of 2022 and the roads to open to traffic before Dec. 31, 2030. The proposal has backing from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Ports Council, the Florida Trucking Association and the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida.

Sierra Club Florida Director Frank Jackalone said during an Earth Day news conference that targeting those rural areas is the wrong way to manage the state's inevitable growth.

"The bill would fuel massive sprawl, which would destroy much of the natural and rural Florida," Jackalone said. "It would also increase water pollution, flooding and deplete our natural resources."

Credit Sierra Club Florida
A satellite image of Florida at night, provided by the Sierra Club, overlayed with the three proposed toll road corridors as described in the bill


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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