M-CORES Planning Issues
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1000 Friends of Florida Identifies Concerns with the M-CORES Planning Process; Asks FDOT to Add Issue to Upcoming Task Force Meeting Agendas
On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, 1000 Friends of Florida sent a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation regarding concerns associated with the M-CORES planning process. These relate to numerous requirements in Senate Bill 7068 and sections 338.223 and 339.135, Florida Statutes, applicable to planning for and evaluating the M-CORES corridors.
“Provisions in state law clearly indicate that, among other things, the Task Forces are charged with identifying the need for, economic impacts of, and economic feasibility of their respective M-CORES corridors,” notes Tim Jackson, a transportation planner and long-time member of 1000 Friends’ Board of Directors. “It is imperative that these and other issues be added to the agenda for the next meeting of each of the three task forces to allow time to identify the data needed and timeline to make informed recommendations.” FDOT staff have agreed to meet in late January to discuss these concerns.
The letter also includes legal requirements and recommendations related to environmental impacts and feasibility, land use and hurricane evacuation impacts, appropriate federal, state and local review and consistency, and alternatives analysis, including a no build option. The letter concludes with the recommendation that each Task Force be allowed to submit at least one minority report in the event that consensus is not achieved among the task force members.
M-CORES legislation (SB 7068) passed during the 2019 Session, with the requirement that construction start on three tolled roads linking Collier County to the Florida Panhandle by December 31, 2022. Explains 1000 Friends Communications Director Vivian Young, “Given the level of federal, state and local review needed for transportation projects, this is an unrealistic timeline for a major undertaking of this scope.”
SB 7068 also required that a Task Force be established for each corridor, including representation by conservation groups. Task Force appointments include Board Member Andrew Dickman for the Southwest Florida Connector from Collier to Polk County, President Paul Owens for the Northern Turnpike Connector linking the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Connector, and former Policy Director Thomas Hawkins for the Suncoast Connector from Citrus County to the Panhandle. FDOT began conducting these meetings in August of 2019.
“With the Task Forces due to submit their reports to the Governor and Legislature on October 1 of this year, time is of the essence to ensure that all legal requirements are met,” says Tim.