Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities
From Polk to Collier County
1000 Friends of Florida does not support final M-CORES task force reports
1000 Friends of Florida has sent a letter to Secretary Kevin Thibault to let him know that 1000 Friends of Florida does not support the three M-CORES reports finalized by their respective task forces this week. As you know, 1000 Friends had a representative on each of the three task forces to provide input into the three toll road corridors extending from the Panhandle to the Everglades.
Ultimately, however, we believe the task force reports failed to include strong measures that would prevent the three toll roads from fueling urban sprawl — sprawl that would do irreparable harm to fragile natural resources and vulnerable rural communities.
Each of our task force representatives proposed a requirement that FDOT protect all conservation land from development within 10 miles of proposed interchanges before construction, and also protect from development any land within 5 miles of a proposed interchange before construction unless it is served by public water and sewer or designated as an industrial job center. These proposals were not adopted.
The measures in the task force reports aimed at protecting the environment create a land acquisition process with laudable intentions, but they fall short of the necessary requirements to ensure that protection, and to earn our support. We do appreciate that our recommendations that a preliminary determination of transportation need and financial feasibility for each of the corridors prior to the PD&E process were adopted by each of the three task forces to ensure greater accountability in the process.
1000 Friends vows to remain engaged in monitoring M-CORES and the process over the coming months and years.
Part of the M-CORES project, the proposed Southwest-Central Connector extends 140 miles from Polk County south to Collier County. The planning area encompasses nine counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee and Polk Counties. Florida Department of Transportation District 1 Secretary L.K. Nandam is chairing the task force with Tracy A. Hood serving as co-chair.
Also involved in the planning process are representatives of the Southwest Florida and Central Florida Regional Planning Councils (RPCs), the South Florida and Southwest Florida Water Management Districts (WMDs), the Collier, Lee County, Charlotte-Punta Gorda, Heartland and Polk Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), representatives of the nine counties, impacted municipalities and others. Board member Andrew Dickman represents 1000 Friends on the Task Force. More information on some of these entities is included below.
Under the provisions of SB 7068, on August 1, 2019 FDOT established the Southwest-Central Florida Connector Task Force. In addition to general task force responsibilities outlined in SB 7068, the legislation also specifies that the Southwest-Central Connector Corridor Task Force shall also:
- “Address the impacts of the construction of a project within the corridor on panther and other critical wildlife habitat and evaluate in its final report: the need for acquisition of lands for state conservation or as mitigation for project conservation,” and
- “Evaluate wildlife crossing design features to protect panther and other critical wildlife habitat corridor connections.”
Letter to FDOT Secretary Kevin Thibault indicating 1000 Friends does not support task force reports (1000 Friends of Florida, October 23, 2020)
Potential Impacts of the Southwest Central Florida Connector on the Florida Panther and Its Habitat (The Nature Conservancy)
Southwest-Central Florida Connector Citizen Primer (1000 Friends of Florida)
Letter to FDOT Secretary Thibault outlining grave concerns with M-CORES task force reports (1000 Friends of Florida, October 8, 2020)
M-CORES: A Detour Around Accountability (1000 Friends of Florida and Sierra Club Florida Chapter)
PD & E Recommendations (1000 Friends of Florida)
Broadband, Economic Development and M-CORES (1000 Friends of Florida)
Southwest-Central Florida Corridor Primer
Southwest-Central Corridor Planning Entities
Visit the FDOT Southwest-Central Connector Page for the list of Task Force members
Task Force Chair and Co-Chair:
Chair: Florida Department of Transportation Southwest Florida District 1 Secretary L.K. Nandam, 863-519-2201
Co-Chair: FDOT District 7 Consutlant Project Management Engineer Tracy A. Hood
FDOT District 1 includes Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee & Polk Counties
Main Office: 801 N. Broadway Avenue, Bartow, Florida 33830-3809, (800) 292-3368
Southwest Area Office: 10041 Daniels Parkway, Ft. Myers, Florida 33913, (239) 225-1900
Hardee County Comprehensive Plan — not available online
The Lee Plan (Lee County, 2019)