North Florida could be getting its first major toll road thanks to a bill signed by the Governor this summer. It’s one of three new major roadways to be built in the state. One would connect Collier County to Polk County, another extends the Florida Turnpike west to Suncoast Parkway and the third expands the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to Georgia. A task force was put in place for each section but a member of the Northern Turnpike Connector thinks plans are moving too fast.
Kristin Dozier wears many hats; she is currently serving her third term as Leon County Commissioner is a member of the area’s Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency serves on the Community Redevelopment Agency for Greater Frenchtown and Southside District of Tallahassee. One of her latest appointments is to M-CORES or the Multi-use corridors of regional economic significance. They are the group tasked with making sure the 3 new toll roads fit their environment.
But Dozier thinks the project is moving too fast.
"I read an article just yesterday about a report to a committee and they said they would unveil, or this is from [Florida Department of Transportation], that they were going to present a proposed route to committees in January, or to the legislature in January," said Dozier. "That is even earlier than we had anticipated at our first meeting in August."
Dozier says she thinks if the group is working at this pace, it won’t allow for public comment.
"The questions about goals and objectives about a proposed road like this really need to come before we start drawing lines on a map," said Dozier.
She says most of the people she’s heard from have the same concerns.
"Some of my concerns are that we have an existing road [SR] 98 that is not at capacity, needs some improvements and if we built a parallel toll road we may be limiting our ability to do necessary maintenance on the existing road network," said Dozier.
Dozier thinks there may be a way North Florida can meet the goal of having connectivity without building new roads by instead improving what’s currently built. And she isn’t the only task force member who thinks that - Thomas Hawkins sits on the Suncoast Connector task force.
"To the extent that we’re looking at roadway infrastructure in the area, in the corridor, we really should be emphasized using existing corridors as a first option I’d like to fully flesh that idea out as part of our analysis," said Hawkins.
The Northern Turnpike Connector task force that Dozier sits on will meet October 22nd and 24th in Citrus County. The second meeting will be a community open house.
That’s when Will Watts Chief Engineer with the Department of Transportation hopes to get input.
“We really want to get the input from the task teams about what we want to avoid and minimize first. So that is task teams number 2 and 3 in October and December," explained Watts. "So we want those voices to be heard so when we start laying our GIS later we fully understand where we want to not go."
He says preliminary lines will begin being drawn January of 2020.