© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Toll Roads Come With Millions For Utility Upgrades But Little Information On When, Where & How

A map of North Florida criss-crossed by black, red and blue lines showing highways
Florida Department of Transportation

Three new toll roads planned for the state are supposedly coming with millions of dollars to upgrade city and county septic and sewer systems. But there’s little information on when and how the money will be distributed and who will be responsible for the work. 

Audubon Florida’s Charles Lee had pointed questions for the Department of Transportation during a meeting on the Northern Turnpike task force.

“I realize there may be clear answers to those questions but I think there’s a burden on DOT to begin suggesting the path they might follow with regard to those issues if they’re going to be meaningful parts of the MCORES discussion,” he said during the task force's Wednesday meeting.

Local community members on the task force worry putting rural Floridians on sewer could be cost prohibitive and say they can’t afford to do projects which could take years, on their own.  DOT says planning for septic and sewer upgrades will be “collaborative”.

“We’re looking at recommendations from you on this stuff. DOT has not done this before, that’s why this task force is here, to recommend how we go about doing it," said the department's chief engineer, Will Watts.

Local activists are calling the road building projects into question--claiming communities have been sold a promise with no guarantee the infrastructure parts of the plan--like increased access to broadband, and upgraded septic and sewer systems--will materialize. In a statement, DOT Spokeswoman Beth Frady said discussion of the costs is "premature."

"The specific locations, needs and characteristics of each of the proposed projects are not yet determined. Each Task Force is charged with studying all aspects of the proposed M-CORES projects, which are intended to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation, and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources. Today’s discussions are centered on the needs of the respective areas and allowing Task Force members continue identifying the guiding principles they would like included as these discussions progress," Frady said in response to questions about how the septic and sewer projects would be funded and awarded. 

"Until the specifics of each of the proposed projects are determined, the discussion regarding potential costs is a bit premature," she said.  

Task force members representing cities and counties note the growing unpopularity of the plan within their communities. Senate President Bill Galvano is the architect of the ideas and has maintained his support for the new toll roads despite increasing blowback.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.