If you thought the eastern leg of the Central Polk Parkway was dead, think again.
State transportation officials in late 2015 had shelved the project because they concluded it was not economically viable as a toll road and could not be justified as anything other than a toll road.
Thursday the Polk Transportation Planning Organization approved the draft amendments for the Florida Department of Transportation’s Transportation Improvement Plan.
Included in the list of projects was $13.2 million for preliminary engineering for four sections of this proposed 25-mile toll highway, which would stretch from somewhere near the CSX freight terminal in Winter Haven across U.S. .27 and into rural areas east of Haines City before looping back to connect to somewhere on Interstate 4.
Sierra has opposed this road because it promotes urban sprawl, threatens wildlife habitat and makes management, particularly fire management, more difficult.
The road is being backed by the business community, which sees it as a tool for opening additional areas for development and providing a more direct route for freight transportation.
The purported reason local planners have advanced for the road, which was first proposed in 2008, was to offer an alternative to the increasingly congested section of U.S. 27.
However, it is worth pointing out that the congestion on U.S. 27 reflects general growth in the state as well as the growth decisions that local officials have made in the past two decades that has increased local traffic as well.
All new roads are development magnets and in the result is that we’ll end up with two congested corridors instead of one.