toll roads

Florida is planning a major expansion of its highways with a series of toll roads that would open new parts of the state to development.

Exactly where the roads will go hasn't been announced yet, but opposition to the highways is growing in rural areas such as Jefferson County in North Florida. Mike Willis' family has lived there since before Florida became a state. He likes to refer to it as "the other Florida."

"Most people think of Florida as palm trees, white sandy beaches," he says. "We have rolling clay hills and beautiful pine forests."

Gundolf Renze / Adobe Stock

If you’ve ever streamed music or browsed the internet during a road trip in Florida, you might have noticed the service can be spotty. Now lawmakers are looking into a plan to increase broadband access for rural communities.

Sen. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) lives in a rural area and frequently deals with poor internet service.

A map of North Florida criss-crossed by black, red and blue lines showing highways
Florida Department of Transportation / https://floridamcores.com/

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. 

A map of North Florida criss-crossed by black, red and blue lines showing highways
Florida Department of Transportation / https://floridamcores.com/

Are they an innovative approach to the state’s future transportation needs or an environmental and economic road to nowhere? Florida lawmakers approved the creation of three new toll roads during the last legislative session, but opposition from environmentalists, small business owners and local officials is growing.

Jefferson County residents are opposed to a planned toll road that would run through the county and into Georgia. The road is part of three Florida lawmakers approved earlier this year. 

Asphalt road and sky cloud landscape at sunset
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North Florida could be getting its first major toll road thanks to a bill signed by the Governor this summer. It’s one of three new major roadways to be built in the state. One would connect Collier County to Polk County, another extends the Florida Turnpike west to Suncoast Parkway and the third expands the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to Georgia. A task force was put in place for each section but a member of the Northern Turnpike Connector thinks plans are moving too fast.

Miami Downtown Florida road signs Key Biscayne
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Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled Friday that a state law abolishing the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority known as MDX is unconstitutional. 

Cars on a road during Sunset
Xiaolong Wong / Unsplash

Governor Ron DeSantis has approved a measure that could pave the way for the state’s first major highway expansion in decades. The effort has been led by state Senate President Bill Galvano who pushed the roads as a way to aid in evacuations, promote growth in rural parts of the state and help transport an ever growing population. But environmentalists argue the idea could be a disaster for fragile ecosystems. 

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A bill that would set a cap on toll roads in Miami-Dade County has passed the full House. Bill sponsor Hialeah Republican Representative Bryan Avila says what the Expressway Authority is not doing its job.