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M-CORES maybe gone for good

By Cindy Jo Ayers
It was announced last week that (Senate Bill) SB100 passed the Florida Senate and House on April 27. SB100 repeals the M-CORES toll roads program. It was reported that the M-CORES program would come with a price tag of $25 billion dollars. The project, which included 330 miles of new toll roads, was to begin by 2022 and was to be completed by 2030. The M-CORES consisted of plans to build toll roads from Collier County to Polk County and extends Florida’s turnpike to connect with the Suncoast Parkway. Then the Suncoast parkway would extend from Citrus County to Jefferson County. If the Governor signs SB100 the M-CORES plans will not happen.
Senator Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) was the sponsor of SB100, she said last week, “The pandemic has really required that we re-evaluate things and one of the things I really believe that are both a policy and budget issue is M-CORES.”
SB100 does away with the Southwest Florida Connector between Collier and Polk Counties. But, it does not do away with everything that will affect the Tri-County area.
The Suncoast Parkway plans have been modified in the bill which calls for utilizing the existing route of U.S. 19 which will eventually connect with Interstate 10 in Madison County. The bill also calls for non-tolled alternative roads for local traffic along U.S. 19, which will become a free flowing toll road according to the Senate Bill.
SB100 calls for the $35 million planned yearly for the M-CORES project to be put back into the Turnpike Enterprise fund.
The Bill calls for the Florida Department of Transportation plans for extension of the turnpike west from Wildwood to the Suncoast Parkway to go forward.
The SB100 is awaiting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signature.
The majority of the bill that will affect the Tri-County Area is printed below:
SB100 section 10. Section 339.67, Florida Statutes is created to read: 339.67 U.S. 19 controlled access facilities. The department shall develop and include in the work program the construction of controlled access facilities as necessary to achieve free flow of traffic on U.S. 19, beginning at the terminus of the Suncoast Parkway 2 Phase 3, north predominantly along U.S. 19 to a logical terminus on Interstate 10 in Madison County. This Strategic Intermodal System facility shall be developed using existing roadway, or portions thereof, to ensure the free flow of traffic along the roadway by improvements such as limited access alignments to manage congestion points and retrofitting existing roadway with a series of grade separations that provide an alternative to a signalized intersection for through traffic. To the maximum extent feasible, the facilities shall be
developed not later than December 31, 2035.
Section 11. 339.68 reads: Arterial rural highway projects. The department shall identify and include in the work program projects lot increase capacity by widening existing two-lane arterial rural roads to four lanes. To be included in a work program project, the road must be classified as an arterial rural road, and truck traffic using the road must amount to at least 15 percent of all such traffic, as determined by the department. The department shall fund at least $20 million annually for such projects.
Section 12. The Legislature finds that the extension of the Florida Turnpike from its northerly terminus in Wildwood to a logical and appropriate terminus as determined by the department of Transportation is in the strategic interest of the State. The department shall commence the project development and environmental phase of the extension and shall consider project configuration, alignment, cost and schedule. The department shall prepare a report summarizing the status of the project development and environmental phase and, by December 31, 2022, submit the report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.