Nearing passage at the Florida statehouse is legislation to move forward three toll projects.
The full Senate voted 37-1 to advance a bill to extend the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia line.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has called for extending the 150-mile-long project. He says it would help the economies of rural areas along the path.
Additional projects in the plan touted by Galvano include a highway to connect Polk County to Collier County, and a connector for the Florida Turnpike west to the Suncoast Parkway.
The three projects have a price tag totaling $45 million in the proposed state budget. The cost would double next year and reach $132 million in 2021. The cost would reach $140 million beginning in 2022.
“The time has come to prioritize these critical infrastructure enhancements and to combine those efforts with innovations that enhance surrounding communities,” Galvano said in a prepared remarks.
“The benefits of this type of long-term investment in our infrastructure include regional connectivity that enhances trade and tourism, congestion mitigation and evacuation routes.”
Criticisms of the plan are largely focused on environmental concerns. Opponents say the toll projects will harm waterways and wildlife.
The bill, SB7068, would have the Florida DOT study the three projects. Construction would begin within three years.
The legislation next heads to the House for further consideration. Time is short, however, for bills to be approved at the statehouse. The regular session is scheduled to wrap up on Friday, May 3.
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