Wekiva Toll Road Proposal Offers Warning On Rural Toll Roads

There are a number of environmental questions relating to plans to punch toll roads into rural and environmental areas, such as some of the proposals being discussed in northeast Polk County and adjacent areas of Osceola County in the headwaters of the Everglades.

Some, such as the fragmentation of important wildlife corridors, can be mitigated to some extent by wildlife crossings incorporated into road designs, providing you can get the engineers to followup on promises to do so.

What cannot be mitigated is the decision on where to locate interchanges.

Interchanges are logical development magnets.

Today we see a cautionary tale on how assurances about protecting environmental areas by restricting the locations of interchanges on new rural toll roads can evaporate when it’s politically expedient.

The Orlando Sentinel reports on such a case in the new toll road to create a high-speed loop around Orlando through the Wekiva River Basin.

It seems that a “temporary” access may become permanent even though the legislation authorizing the road doesn’t authorize it.

Environmentalists, who were key players in crafting the road’s details, feel betrayed.

Local officials, who downplay the proposal as for “discussion only,” counter the environmental community is overreacting.

However, we know from experience that if local officials weren’t interested in making a change, they wouldn’t be scheduling a discussion. The fact that the current legislation protects the area is no guarantee it will always be so.

The record of the current crop of legislators on environmental and growth management is not reassuring.

This is an issue worth our attention.