Toll Roads Drawing Increased Criticism; Florida Taxwatch Report Raises Questions About Costs, Rationale

The scheme to divert taxpayer money to build a trio of lobbyist-inspired toll roads between the edge of the Everglades to the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp is drawing criticism from a prominent player in Florida government oversight.

Florida TaxWatch issued a 32-page report questioning the logic of building the extension of the Suncoast Parkway in particular and two other toll roads in general.

The law ordering the roads to be built was law was “passed before an analysis of the need for, or the impacts of, these new roads was completed,” Florida TaxWatch’s report said, a conclusion critics in the environmental and growth-management community reached at the time the legislation was being considered last year, adding “Moving forward with such a major, costly project with so many legitimate objections, without fully studying it (or even studying it at all), raises significant concerns.”

Additionally, Florida Taxwatch’s report points out that the projects costs are unknown since no one knows what the exact route will be, forcing the organization to undertake its analysis based on the costs of other Florida toll road projects.

Additionally, the lack of analysis on the need for the project also raises the possibility that the roads’ construction and operating costs may have to be subsidized by revenue from other toll road projects or from other state transportation funds, diverting funds from other, better-documented transportation needs.

The unknown costs include not only the costs of construction, design and right-of-way purchases, but also the costs of issuing bonds to finance whatever the costs turn out to be, Florida TaxWatch’s report says.

That’s because the projects could potentially increase the size of the state’s toll road system by two-thirds.

In the past, state transportation officials have scrapped proposed toll road projects that are not projected to be financially feasible.

The legislation that ordered the construction of these projects did not give transportation officials that discretion.

Meanwhile, task force meetings continue—the next meeting involving the corridor between Polk and Collier counties is scheduled for Thursday—with a goal of presenting a final report to the Florida Legislature by Nov. 15.

For the latest information on projects, go to https://floridamcores.com/ and follow the links.

To read Florida TaxWatch’s report, go to https://floridataxwatch.org/Press-Room and follow the links.

Additionally, 1000 Friends of Florida has performed extensive analysis of the projects. View its analysis at https://1000fof.org/m-cores/ .