Today the Republican majority of the Florida House of Representatives approved a disastrous Toll Roads to Nowhere Bill that would be ruinous to the rural heartland of Florida and our state’s nature coast. The urban sprawl that would accompany the new toll roads would be deadly, devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of rural and natural lands, fragmenting wildlife habitat and polluting our rivers, springs, lakes and coastal waters.
Passage of the Toll Roads to Nowhere Bill is the equivalent of a declaration of war by the Legislature on Florida’s Environment, and it moves Sierra Club to respond in kind. It is the worst bill for Florida’s environment we have seen in more than 20 years.
Florida taxpayers will pay over $1 billion for these needless roads over the next decade. Money that could be spent on relieving our actual highway congestion issues will now instead be funneled into 320 miles of toll roads that will create massive sprawl and traffic. It’s a perversion of the old tax and spend analogy, taking tax money from hard working Floridians to give away to developers and landowners. In return they will pave over our rural and natural areas to line their own pockets with profits.
The Toll Roads to Nowhere bill is largely a pet project of one legislator, Senate President Bill Galvano. Galvano used his extraordinary powers over the state budget and bills sponsored by each Senator, to pressure his colleagues to approve the bill whether they liked it or not. He then did some horse-trading with Republican leadership of the Florida House of Representatives to make sure his bill would be passed there. In short, this one man imposed his will on the Senate, and then maneuvered House Republicans to vote for this terrible bill. Sierra Club is grateful to Representatives Evan Jenne, Margaret Good and 34 other House Democrats who refused to be intimidated and voted against the bill.
We join today with more than 90 other environmental organizations, citizens groups, and businesses to urge Governor DeSantis to veto the Toll Roads to Nowhere Bill. The Governor should ask Legislators to take a second look at this concept next year and broaden it into a study on how to manage Florida’s growth, stop harmful pollution, transition to clean, renewable energy, and meet the Sunshine State’s transportation needs over the next several decades.
We are hopeful that Governor DeSantis, who has stated that he is sensitive to the cost of toll roads on average Floridians, will recognize the bill as an affront to fiscal conservatism and veto it. And we haven’t forgotten that candidate DeSantis promised at a campaign stop in the Everglades on September 12, 2018, that he would “represent, maybe, an emergence of a Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican Party here in Florida.” We remind the Governor that Roosevelt used his Presidential authority to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks and 18 national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land; that’s quite a contrast to a Florida Legislature that just this year slashed spending for the Florida Forever program and passed a bill that would destroy much of the state’s rural and natural lands.
Should Governor DeSantis sign the Toll Roads to Nowhere Bill, Sierra Club will mobilize our resources to stop construction of the ruinous roads. We will organize opposition in impacted rural communities; activate more than 230,000 members and supporters in Florida; go to court to stop destruction of our natural lands; and hold accountable legislators who voted for the bill in the next election.