M-CORES

The issue: A Detour Around Accountability.

Our opinion: Address accountability and funding issues during the upcoming legislative session.

A just-released paper on M-CORES by 1000 Friends of Florida and Sierra Club Florida Chapter has drawn attention to the lack of ongoing gubernatorial and legislative oversight for the projects that could cost upwards of $26.4 billion over the next decade.

According to the state M-CORES, which stands for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance, calls for extending three transportation corridors to help “revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity.”

The three corridors currently being studied by task forces are:

—The Suncoast Connector, extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County

—The Northern Turnpike Connector, extending from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway

—The Southwest-Central Florida Connector, extending from Collier County to Polk County

The final task force reports are due by Nov. 15, 2020.

Aside from the damage the three extensions would have on environmentally sensitive areas they would pass through, the Sierra Club Florida Chapter and 1000 Friends of Florida contend the projects were slipped through the backdoor legislatively and lack real oversight.

The major findings of the paper titled “M-CORES: A Detour Around Accountability,” included:

—The bill creating M-CORES allows it to be managed by FDOT without oversight, unless a new bill is crafted.

—The project bypassed preliminary determination of need or financial feasibility studies.

—The exorbitant estimated cost of the project would siphon off funding for other local and state road projects.

The Sierra Club Florida Chapter and 1000 Friends of Florida raise important issues that should be addressed.

Nevertheless, we don’t see oversight stopping the entire project.

The myriad reasons the state developed these projects in the first place was to deal with future issues the state is certainly going to be forced to address. People fought I-75 and the Florida Turnpike saying they were not necessary. Time proved them wrong. The same is true for the Suncoast Parkway.

A solution the state should consider is dropping the Northern Turnpike Connector, extending from the northern terminus of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway. If the state extends the Suncoast Parkway as planned, they do not need to extend the Turnpike.

Legislators should address the oversight and funding issues ignored in SB 7068 (M-CORES bill) during the 2021 legislative session, however, we do not recommend tabling all the projects.