Former Gov. Jeb Bush has joined the campaign to boost the embattled Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance aka M-CORES proposal enacted by the Florida Legislature to foist a network of toll roads between the Everglades and the Okefenokee Swamp on Florida’s taxpayers at the behest of the road-building lobby.
He wrote his comments in an op-ed column circulated to Florida newspapers.
Let’s look at the arguments.
The first one is that we can somehow build our way out of highway congestion as more and more people move to this state. The idea that traffic will move smoothly in the third-most populous state in the country if only we simply build more roads is delusional. Smart planning groups have proposed plans for sustainable ways to deal with Florida’s expected population growth, but sprawl-inducing road projects into rural areas are not among them.
Next is the argument that this proposed road network is the only way to aid rural economies. There have been a lot of claims, but with little evidence advanced anywhere that this is true. Expanding broadband and other utilities, two factors often cited by road backers, certainly improve economic prosperity, but you don’t need to build new roads to accomplish that.
Access to ports has also been cited. To reach coastal ports, traffic has to traverse congested urban areas and these projects won’t change that. If the motivation is to connect planned inland ports in rural areas such as Hendry County, you run up against issues ranging from protecting the Florida panther to preservation of farmland. Those issues have yet to be resolved during the current discussions.
Of course, there’s always the all-purpose argument about the need for hurricane evacuation. This comes up every time someone wants to build a major new road corridor. We heard the same argument when boosters proposed an east-west highway several years ago that would have cut through the Lake Wales Ridge and the Everglades and St. Johns River headwaters.
Bush also cites the input from state environmental agencies in protecting natural resources. Representatives of those agencies are well represented on the task forces, but they have been notably silent during the current deliberations. That has left the heavy lifting to private environmental organizations to point out flaws in the proposal and to suggest that much of it be scrapped . This is not surprising. State environmental agencies have been on a short leash for several years. State employees have better sense than to run afoul of the political establishment.