Protesters for proposed toll road

Julianne Thomas of Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Sally Baptiste of Save the Manatees and Cris Costello of the Sierra Club recently traveled to Lakeland to protest the planning for a central toll road that the state legislature has ordered through the state’s rural lands. They are from Naples, Orange County and Sarasota respectively.

WAUCHULA — Do you have questions about a 350-mile toll road that state legislators have ordered for the center of the state?

The Florida Department of Transportation is holding an open house Tuesday evening in Wauchula. The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 12, 135 E. Main St.

This comes one week after the task force for the southern third of the project met in Lakeland for a full day. Their job is to set guidelines for the state to follow in building the project. They have been discouraged from advocating a no-build option. Several dozen citizens made public comments at the end of that event, with all but one opposed.

Wauchula is closer than Lakeland, but if you can’t make it and have questions, you can email them to betsy.calvert@yoursun.com. The Sun will try to get questions answered.

The next meeting of the task force is Dec. 9 in Labelle.

Called the Southwest Central Florida Connector, the southern third of this proposed project is the largest, most costly, and through the most counties. Charlotte and DeSoto counties are included on the task force, because the possible route corridor includes small slivers of the counties.

The southern third would run somewhere from Collier County and end in Polk County. The full road would end at the Georgia border.

Championed by state Senate President Bill Galvano, the 2019 legislation bypasses state engineer recommendations and orders construction to begin by 2022. Galvano has trumpeted the project as bringing prosperity to the state’s rural center.

Charlotte County Commissioner Chris Constance has stated he believes it will provide an alternative to coastal development, thus alleviating pressure on sensitive coastal areas.

Environmentalists, however, see the state’s rural center as the last refuge for wildlife. Others object to the large cost of building a toll road.

To communicate with FDOT about the project, enter comments at www.floridaMCORES.com or by email to FDOT.listens@dot.state.fl.us.

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