A New Turnpike Through Alachua County?

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Governor Scott’s Florida Department of Transportation wants to build a new, high-capacity high-speed toll road, traversing the state from Tampa to Jacksonville, purportedly for “regional connectivity” and to relieve I-75 congestion between Wildwood and Gainesville. But demand has never been demonstrated for a Tampa-Jax corridor, and the proposal does little to solve I-75 congestion.

In April FDOT finally revealed swaths under consideration for potential future corridors. Towns and villages impacted include High Springs/Alachua, Tioga, Jonesville, Newberry, Haile Plantation, Gainesville, Archer, Williston, Ocala, Rainbow Springs, Dunnellon, Citrus Springs, Lecanto and Hernando. (See swaths on map.)

A new facility would sever sensitive eco-systems and wildlife corridors, rural pastures and homesteads, and towns and villages whose complexion may change forever. It would also endanger a critical recharge zone, where the Floridan Aquifer is replenished by rainfall to provide potable water supplies for the region. This has been recognized by the St. Johns and Suwannee River Water management districts, the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, and the State of Florida for years. Alachua County has very protective aquifer recharge policies in our Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Moreover, Alachua County residents believe a new freeway west of I-75 would contribute to further westward sprawl, and drain investment from Eastern Alachua County and East Gainesville. I-75 has been skewing our County’s development since it was built 60 years ago.

This 5-minute video exposes how the entire plan was hatched and moved forward, from 2010-2014. The Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation partnered with FDOT to commission a study. Years of meetings and studies followed, including establishment of an annual “Freight Leadership Forum,” attended by dozens of CEOs and the Florida Transportation Builders Association. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i98wmmyeVgg&feature=youtu.be

Once decided, FDOT created the I-75 Relief Task Force, including “representatives from state agencies, local governments, regional planning councils, private landowners, environmental organizations, business and economic development interests and members of the public,” and shepherded them through a tightly managed process designed to lead to new highways.

Nowhere along the way did FDOT notify cities in the swaths. Many City Commissioners in Alachua County were unaware until the County informed them at joint City/County Commission meetings. Meanwhile, FDOT used every means possible to ruthlessly squash public comment, including limiting Public Comment to 30 minutes of a 7 hour meeting, placing it at the end, after all decisions were made, and providing emailed public comments to Task Force members on CDs after they arrived at meetings.

Instead of a new corridor through virgin territory, we support alternatives such as investing in freight rail improvements to get more trucks off the road, regional and commuter passenger rail, local roads that will take people off I-75, and maximizing I-75 through truck only and/or express lanes.

If you agree, please take action.

• Send comments to Huiwei.Shen@dot.state.fl.us; cc Info@NoNewHighways.org

• Visit www.i75relief.com and www.nonewhighways.org

• Join I-75 Relief North Central Florida Info on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/1133688126642561/

• Attend the final Task Force meeting August 12th in Ocala

• To volunteer, call Katy at 234-9427

As Commissioner Mike Byerly explained, “FDOT has two timeframes: too soon to tell, and too late to change.” We are in one EXTREMELY BRIEF MOMENT between!

Let us preserve the pristine natural beauty of North Florida, and not succumb to its overdevelopment. NO NEW HIGHWAYS! D

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