The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) in the next few months will be hosting a series of rotating “engagement centers” and small group meetings throughout the four counties – Marion, Citrus, Levy and Sumter – potentially affected by the proposed Northern Florida Extension. FDOT said the plan for more meetings is in response to a high level of interest and engagement in the proposed extension.

The proposed alternative corridors, which were revealed last November, have sparked intense interest for residents in and around Dunnellon, as three of the four corridor options skirt Dunnellon directly to the east or west. When the Dunnellon City Council invited area residents to speak on the issue at a workshop in December, City Hall was filled to capacity. Opposition to an extension was the overwhelming consensus in the room. The Council later passed a resolution voicing its unanimous opposition to all build options.

County Commission meetings addressing the issue in Marion and Citrus County have also seen high turnout from anti-build activists.

Dunnellon mayor Bill White, with support from the remainder of the Council, wrote a letter to Turnpike Enterprise Project Manager William Burke requesting a meeting in the Dunnellon area or Marion County whereby FDOT would be available to receive input and answer questions, due to the area’s proximity to the extension proposal options.

The prior “kickoff” meetings were held in Chiefland and Lecanto.

“It was pointed out to FDOT that Marion County and Dunnellon have a significant elderly population and driving to the previous venues outside of the County was problematic for many,” White wrote. “Additionally, it was noted to FDOT that the elderly are often “computer skills challenged” and it cannot be assumed that this population’s need for contact or information is fully being addressed by electronic means.

“Dunnellon and the surrounding areas are impacted greatly with all four of the proposed alternatives currently under study. There is much concern as exhibited in recent Dunnellon City Council Meetings, Marion County Commission Meetings and TPO Meetings.”

Originally, more public meetings weren’t planned by FDOT until 2023. The Florida Turnpike Enterprise is required to issue a report to Gov. Ron Desantis and the Legislature by the end of this year.

“The increased engagement will influence the project schedule and allow stakeholders to continue providing feedback that will help to shape the Department’s Alternative Corridor Evaluation (ACE) process and Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study,” FDOT said in a press release.

FDOT said the newly-planned meetings will be posted on the Northern Turnpike Enterprise website at www.floridasturnpike.com/NTE.

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