Toll Roads To Nowhere Aren't The Best Use Of Florida Taxpayer Money

Toll Road Expansion Bill - The Issue

Opponents of the toll road expansion bill recently passed by the Florida Legislature say it would be disastrous for the state, especially because of its potential impact on the environment. They also think the bill is mainly aimed at helping wealthy developers and investors, as opposed to benefiting the entirety of the state.

Proponents, like Senate President Bill Galvano, who was a main force behind the bills passage during the legislative session, say the roads will help with future growth and investment, especially in more rural regions that lack updated infrastructure.

Here’s some of what the bill would do: First, $45 million will be allocated to get this whole project going. The end result would be the expansion of the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border; it would extend the Florida Turnpike west to connect with the Suncoast; and it would add a new multi-use corridor, including a toll road, from Polk County to Collier County.

The bill was formally sent to Governor DeSantis this week. He has until May 28 to sign, veto or allow it to become law without his signature.

If it becomes law, construction could start in as soon as three years.

My Take

The big question I’ve had all along when it comes to this issue is whether or not this is the best use of limited infrastructure and transportation resources. Would there be benefits that come along with these particular toll road expansions? Sure, but there are much more pressing needs across the state and in the Tampa Bay area that should be addressed first.

Easing congestion along the I-4 corridor should be a top priority when it comes to state infrastructure planning. Making the trip from Tampa to Orlando a quicker, easier traveling experience helps two of the biggest metropolitan areas of the state and would aid business and development growth along Florida’s most vital region. The problem continues to get worse as the area becomes more populated, yet there’s a stunning lack of planning to address the obvious needs.

Locally, a toll road connecting parts of Pasco and Pinellas to the northern parts of Hillsborough would make far more sense than a toll road running through desolate sections of North Florida. Try getting from Palm Harbor to New Tampa, or Dunedin to the booming areas around Wesley Chapel. It’s a missed opportunity to more effectively connect expanding counties and get ahead of what will certainly be real challenges in the near future.

Those pushing this current toll road expansion bill are focused on potential growth in rural areas, while issues due to current growth in more populated areas go unresolved. If there were an infinite amount of resources available to improve Florida’s infrastructure problems then this would make sense. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with a limited amount of money, you have to prioritize. The toll road expansion bill before Governor DeSantis focuses on the wrong priorities. It’s time the state legislature start fixing actual infrastructure and transportation issues, as opposed to ones that don’t yet exist.

For more on the issue and to hear the discussion with listeners that took place on the show, check out the podcast below.