Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities
From Polk to Collier County
In 2019, the Florida Legislature passed SB 7068 creating the Florida M-CORES project which authorized three new toll roads extending 330 miles from the Panhandle to Collier County through some of the state’s finest remaining rural lands. The Southwest-Central Connector was proposed to extend 140 miles from Polk County south to Collier County. The planning area encompassed nine counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee and Polk Counties.
But during the 2021 Florida Legislative Session, with strong advocacy by 1000 Friends and others, SB 100 on M-CORES passed, repealing 2019’s M-CORES legislation and redirecting its funding. Because of this, planning and construction for an integrated system of new toll roads came to a halt. If SB 100 had not passed, major planning would have continued for these roads, with construction beginning by the end of 2022. It is important to note that SB 100 still authorizes expanding other highways in rural areas, with priority for routes with high truck traffic.
However, these projects will go through the Florida Department of Transportation’s planning process, with a determination of need and feasibility prior to moving forward. 1000 Friends also successfully advocated that SB 100 be amended to reference the three task force reports, developed over a 15-month period with tremendous input from citizens, 1000 Friends and others, to better protect environmental resources and vulnerable communities in the three planning corridors.
This page is being maintained because it includes useful planning and mapping resources for counties and municipalities in the Southwest-Central Connector Corridor. Please scroll below to find out more.
Under the provisions of SB 7068, on August 1, 2019 FDOT established the Southwest-Central Florida Connector Task Force. Florida Department of Transportation District 1 Secretary L.K. Nandam chaired this task force with Tracy A. Hood serving as co-chair. Also involved in the planning process were 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 represented 1000 Friends on the 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 was to:
- “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.”
Southwest-Central Florida Corridor Primer
Southwest-Central Corridor Resources:
Southwest-Central Florida Connector Citizen Primer (1000 Friends of Florida)
Potential Impacts of the Southwest Central Florida Connector on the Florida Panther and Its Habitat (The Nature Conservancy)
Southwest-Central Corridor Agencies and Plans
Hardee County Comprehensive Plan — not available online
The Lee Plan (Lee County, 2019)
FDOT District Office:
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