Tag Archives: Suncoast Connector

FDOT says it will look for toll road financial need after reports: you can vote! 2020-10-21

FDOT actually answered my complaint that there is no demonstrated need for the M-CORES toll roads, saying FDOT would be sure to do financial due diligence. After the “Final” Task Force reports go to the legislature.

Meanwhile, FDOT has spent how many millions of taxpayer dollars on the un-needed boondoggle? Despite NRTR demonstrating that 93% of comments FDOT received opposed the toll roads?

Nevermind their “deadlines,” you can still send comments to FDOT, and they will go into the public record, retrievable through open records requests.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will stop this toll roads boondoggle and instead do good things for natural Florida and its people. Votes are comments the state of Florida cannot ignore.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

I didn’t get to comment on the Suncoast Corridor Task Force meeting, because they didn’t see my sign-up to comment using their procedures. I asked them about that, and got them to acknowledge I had signed up to comment in the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force meeting the next day.

Here is what I sent FDOT immediately after speaking on October 21, 2020: Continue reading

Last day to comment against M-CORES, and NRTR publishes analysis of comments 2020-10-14

Florida has a billion-dollar budget shortfall, yet the toll road task forces are still reporting go-aheads while finding no need for their destructive projects. Today is the last comment day to tell the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) what you think about that. Plus today you can listen to the No Roads to Ruin Coalition spell out the overwhelming public opposition to this toll roads boondoggle.

How to comment to FDOT about M-CORES:

  1. FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us
  2. or use this comment form:
    https://floridamcores.com/#contact-us

Just like SH 130 in Texas, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, while sucking up funds that should go to pandemic relief and to conserving Florida’s natural environment, including regular, frequent, closely-spaced water quality testing on all of Florida’s rivers. Florida should be doing those things, not risking the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, their springs, agriculture, forests, swamps, and the Floridan Aquifer for unnecessary toll roads.

[Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start]
Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start

Also today, the No Roads To Ruin (NRTR) coalition, of which Suwannee Riverkeeper is a charter member, will release an analysis of public comments.

After 15 months of public meetings and collecting public comment in multiple formats for the three M-CORES task forces, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has yet to provide, to the task force members or the public, a complete record and accounting of public comment submissions.

To rectify this situation, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition has gathered, categorized, and will share and summarize those public comments, along with the obvious probable reasons for FDOT’s lack of transparency.

WHAT: No Roads to Ruin Coalition Zoom press conference and Facebook Live event

WHEN: October 14, 2020 at 10:30 to 11:00 a.m.

WHO: Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist, Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, and volunteer “comment counters” from across the state

WHERE: Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/noroadstoruin

Suwannee Riverkeeper has signed on to an NRTR letter against M-CORES, as has Waterkeepers Florida on behalf of all 14 Waterkeepers of Florida.

For why, you need go no farther than The Suncoast Corridor Task Force’s own Study Area Overview:

[SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009]
SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009
PDF

The predominately rural counties located within the Suncoast Corridor study area contain natural resources, landscapes, and public lands that have been highly attractive to residents and year-round visitors for decades. This area has many unique features and natural resources including rivers, springs, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, coastal areas, conservation areas, state parks, and agricultural lands. Some notable resources include the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, the Flint Rock and Aucilla Wildlife Management Areas, the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, Blue Springs, Fanning Springs, Crystal River, and the Goethe State Forest. The study area also contains numerous large acreage conservation easements. These areas support significant fish, wildlife, and plant populations including threatened and endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, the Florida scrub-jay, and the gopher tortoise. The study area also includes an abundance of prime farmlands and agricultural properties that serve both economic and environmental functions in addition to Spring Protection and Recharge Areas, prospective Florida Forever Lands on the current priority lists for acquisition, and Florida Ecological Greenways Network critical linkages.

Why would we want to risk all that for an unnecessary toll road?

Even the Suncoast Connector Task Force’s own report admits that the public comments were overwhelmingly against that toll road:

A summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public are included below.

  • Concern for impacts to wildlife habitat (946 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to property and rural quality of life (783 comments)
  • Support to expand, improve, and maintain existing roads (421 comments)
  • Need to improve and protect water resources and the aquifer (421 comments)
  • Concern over project cost (367 comments)
  • Need for protection and enhancement of conservation lands (356 comments)
  • Support the need for jobs, economic development and business enhancements; but concern over potential negative economic impacts (269 comments)
  • Concern over the cost of tolls (256 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to wetlands (169 comments)
  • Concern for increased water, ground, and air pollution (147 comments)
  • Need for hurricane evacuation (144 comments)
  • Concern over location/project alignment or route (137 comments)
  • Support for multi-modal/mass transit (144 comments)
  • Need for broadband (117 comments)

As many of us have pointed out, you don’t need a toll road to distribute broadband to rural areas.

Local solar panels with battery backup and more hurricane shelters make a lot more sense and would be far less expensive than a toll road encouraging mass evacuation.

Also remember the Northern Turnpike Connector toll road boondoggle overlaps the Suwannee River Basin in Levy County.

Please comment today!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Why would Florida toll roads be different? Broke from the start: Texas SH 130 toll road

Why would we expect the Florida M-CORES toll roads would be any different, since they were foisted on the public by a questionable process, just like the Texas SH 130 toll road?

“The original estimates for this job were terribly overstated,” SH 130 Concession Company’s current CEO, Andy Bailey, told KXAN. “The original traffic projections were wildly overstated. The company did a couple of additional traffic projections and still missed.”…

The bankruptcy filing accused SH 130’s management of knowingly paying CTHC for work the company “had not properly completed” and work that “would cause systematic problems” to the highway in the future….

Known cracking and heaving problems not fixed

One of the main elements of the September 2018 bankruptcy filing is accusations that “Ferrovial and Zachry-controlled managers caused the SH 130 Concession Company to pay Central Texas Highway Constructors, known as CTHC, more than $329 million in payments the lawsuit characterizes as ‘fraudulent.’”…

[Cracked dirt and SH 130 construction]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Cracked dirt and SH 130 construction, 2006-08-11.

Key words in this story: “fraudulent,” “improperly completed,” “insolvent,” “bankruptcy,” and more.

How can the Suncoast Connector possibly have enough traffic to pay for itself, when, as Tall Timbers points out, “US Highway 19, a four-lane divided roadway, runs throughout the length of the eight-county Suncoast Connector planning area and is substantially underutilized. In fact, for much of its route through the toll road planning area, US 19 functions at between 16 and 20 percent of its maximum service volume.”

SH 130 was touted as traffic relief around Austin for I-35. Actually, it carries mostly truck traffic, and it’s not clear it will ever pay for itself.

What are Suncoast Connector and the other M-CORES toll roads really good for? Nothing but pork for their proponents, as near as I can tell.

No build!

Jody Barr, KXAN, 14 November 2018, Former SH 130 executives accused of hiding road defects from lenders, Continue reading

Toll Roads webinars are illegal: ask Florida Governor to repurpose funds to pandemic relief 2020-05-28

There’s no point in attending the toll roads webinars: instead ask Florida governor DeSantis to use the toll road funds for pandemic relief.

FDOT didn’t listen to First Amendment Foundation: “All portions of the Sunshine Law continue to apply even during this horrible pandemic. No part of the Law has been suspended or modified as applied to state agencies. As a result, I respectfully request that FDOT exercise patience, cancel any and all M-CORES Task Force meetings, and reschedule the meetings only when members of the Task Force and Florida citizens can fully participate in-person and by all feasible means.

Instead, FDOT scheduled more bogus webinars this week, starting tomorrow.

[FAF to FDOT (1 of 3)]
FAF to FDOT (1 of 3)

Better: please ask Florida governor DeSantis to repurpose toll road funds to pandemic relief.

Thanks to the No Roads to Ruin (NRTR) steering committee, here is the FAF letter to FDOT (PDF).

News coverage: Continue reading

Video: Sign up to recommend No Build; M-CORES toll road webinars

Floridians moved to Lowndes County, Georgia, after Hurricane Irma, but not because of lack of toll roads. If they had had solar panels and batteries so they wouldn’t be without power for weeks, they might have stayed in Florida, said Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman at the meeting in Madison County, Florida, February 11, 2020.

You can recommend No Build this coming week, as M-CORES holds webinars with public comment. See below for how.

[Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman]
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says No Build.

The Suncoast Connector Task Force webinar is 9:30 AM to 12 noon, Thursday, April 30, 2020. That’s the toll road that would run from Crystal River across the Suwannee River, through farms, forests, and wetlands, building bypasses around towns and cities, to Thomasville, Georgia.

To listen, you have to Continue reading

Videos: Don’t split farms, and don’t harm nature, schools, or aquifer, at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11

Toll roads splitting farms would be generational damage, said farmer Ernest Culver of Jackson County, and the Task Force doesn’t take into account churches or schools, not to mention nature, rivers, or the Floridan Aquifer, said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of Columbia County, at the meeting in Madison County, Florida, February 11, 2020.

[Ernest Culver & Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson]
Ernest Culver & Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson

The idea of repurposing toll roads funds for virus pandemic relief continues to get more at least indirect support. Craig Pitman, Florida Phoenix, 9 April 2020, Does Florida still need that trio of billion-dollar toll roads?,

Florida’s controversial new toll roads hit a potential roadblock this week.

Two of them are supposed to Continue reading

Videos: Toll roads as prosperity drain and climate change, at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11

More toll roads could drain prosperity, and more driving means more climate change, said two speakers at the meeting in Madison County, Florida, February 11, 2020.

You can send your opinion to FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us. And Sierra Club has provided a convenient way for Floridians to tell FDOT No Build:
https://addup.sierraclub.org/campaigns/no-roads-to-ruin/take-action

See also the No Roads to Ruin Coalition facebook page.

A couple of speakers in Madison were for the toll roads, both claiming economic benefits. Madison County later terminated the consulting contract for one of them as a cost-cutting measure due to virus pandemic.

If one county can do that, the state of Florida can do that, as we previously suggested. See also Philip Beasley, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, April 12, 2020, Put federal dollars in hands of jobless.

Here are the WWALS videos of speakers in Madison:

Videos: No Build: Fire and Traffic at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11

Update 2020-04-18: Videos: Toll roads as prosperity drain and climate change, at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11.

Prescribed fire is important, said Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislative Chair, Florida Native Plants Society. Four-lane I-10 instead, to preserve businesses along that road, said Jimmy Ray of Madison County. Here are WWALS videos of these two more speakers against the toll roads boondoggle in Madison County, Florida, February 11, 2020.

Meanwhile, apparently great minds think alike, because the idea WWALS member Janet Mikulski Messcher had a few weeks ago of asking the Florida governor to repurpose toll road moneys for pandemic relief was also published independently that same day by in the Sun-Sentinel by Susan L. Trevarthen of 1000 Friends of Florida.

No Build: Speakers at M-CORES toll road meeting, Madison, FL 2020-02-11

Update 2019-04-03: More speakers, and ask the governor to repurpose toll road money to virus relief.

Many people traveled hours to speak for three minutes in Madison County, Florida, against the toll road boondoggle, on February 11, 2020. I videoed them for WWALS. Here are the first few speakers.

I will add more in coming days, to encourage you all to tell your elected and appointed officials we don’t want resources wasted, farms torn apart, and our rivers and springs polluted by these unnecessary toll roads.

Fanning Springs No (Toll) Roads to Ruin meeting 2020-02-12

And no toll road coming right up to the Suwannee River from the south, not even if it’s called “Northern Turnpike Connector.” Yes, the day after the Madison, FL, Suncoast Connector meeting, there’s a meeting in Fanning Springs, FL, about the Northern Turnpike Connector. Why Fanning Springs? Because their “study areas” overlap, both including Levy and Citrus Counties.

[Overlap: Suncoast and Northern Turnpike Connector]
Map: Overlap: Suncoast and Northern Turnpike Connector, screenshot from M-CORES interactive map.

Any of these toll road boondoggles would waste money that should go to water quality testing and eco-tourism, not to mention fixing fertilizer nitrates leaching into our springs and rivers.

When: 9:30-4:30 PM, Tuesday, February 11, 2020
4:00 PM Public Comment

Where: Suwannee River Fair Pavilion Continue reading