Group remains vocal in opposition to toll roads

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Posted August 17, 2022 | Photos by Bruce Ackerman

Even though the Florida Department of Transportation announced on Aug. 4 that it was pausing its proposed Northern Turnpike Extension project due to its failure to identify any viable corridor—including some that could have plowed through Marion County’s rural areas—some groups are still making their voices heard in opposition to the endeavor.

On Tuesday, No Roads to Ruin Coalition members gathered outside the Marion County Board of County Commissioners Auditorium at the McPherson Governmental Complex. The group, which included residents from Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties, brandished bright pink sign bearing the words “Rural Florida says no toll roads.”

A press release issued by issued by Michael McGrath, a Sierra Club Organizing Representative, who was at the event, stated that the group wanted to share “their resolve to stop each and every attempt to ram a new toll road through rural Florida” and respond “to the legislators who voted for the politically-driven 2019 and 2021 bills that created the costly M-CORES and the Northern Turnpike Extension threats to their communities.”

The project was a proposed lengthening of Florida’s Turnpike from its terminus in Sumter County, resulting from Senate Bill 100, which repealed the 2019 M-CORES (Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance) and initiated FDOT exploration of four different potential turnpike routes.

Two of the proposed routes would have gone north from Sumter County through parts of southwestern Marion County, a third would have been just inside the county line south of Marion Oaks and the fourth would have impacted portions of Citrus and Sumter counties. The longest route would have been from Wildwood north to Chiefland in Levy County.

In addition to grassroots and environmental groups, city and county boards and councils had voiced their opposition to the state by entering “no build” resolutions, including the Dunnellon City Council, Inglis Town Commission, Inverness City Council, Yankeetown Council, Bronson Town Council, Levy and Citrus county commission boards. The Marion County Commission did not adopt a “no build” position and instead requested “a seat at the table” as the state reviewed options.

In announcing the decision to “pause” the turnpike extension project, the FDOT said it would instead focus on improvements to I-75.

For information about the Florida Department of Transportation, go to fdot.gov

To learn more about No Roads To Ruin, visit noroadstoruin.org