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Florida toll road expansion plan heads to DeSantis, despite environmental concerns : A plan for three new and expanded toll roads is traveling to Gov. Ron DeSantis over the concerns of Democrats about the potential for exorbitant costs and sprawling development across environmentally sensitive lands and farm fields. While the governor has not his announced his intentions, environmentalists quickly urged him to veto the legislation. The House voted 76-36 on Wednesday to give final approval to the measure (SB 7068), a priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. The plan includes setting aside $45 million next fiscal year for roads that aren’t expected to be completed for at least a decade. Annual funding is expected to reach about $140 million in coming years for the plan, which seeks to extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast Parkway; and create a new transportation corridor, including a toll road, from Polk to Collier counties. The bill, which passed the Senate last week, would require separate task forces to study the environmental and economic impacts of the three roads, which are intended to help underserved rural communities and provide new hurricane-evacuation options. “We are setting out a platform, a way forward, on three new corridors that we have adequate hurricane-evacuation routes, that we have adequate trade and logistics, and that we’re able to absorb the vast number of people that are moving to our state,” said Rep. Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican who handled the bill in the House. Meanwhile, Democrats echoed earlier warnings from environmental groups that the plan will destroy wetlands and said the focus should be on fixing already-existing roads.… Full Article
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