Officials at the Florida Department of Transportation are considering several proposals to extend the Florida Turnpike north, past its current northern-most end in Wildwood, Florida. A project study area is currently in the works for a three-county region.

“The project study area includes Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties,” said Jeff Arms, program manager for the Turnpike Authority. “The project is early in the planning phase, and is following the Florida Department of Transportation alternative corridor evaluation process.”

“The project will consider previous studies and reports,” Arms said. “In fact, the section of Florida Statutes actually states that the Turnpike Enterprise shall take into consideration the guidance and the recommendations of any previous studies or reports, including but not limited to the task force reports.”

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature passed a repeal bill of the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) legislation from years prior. It was once a priority of former Senate President Bill Galvano. M-CORES was a proposed network of new toll road expansions in different regions across Florida. All of the projects were scrapped except the extension of the Florida turnpike northbound, known as the Suncoast Parkway.

The Suncoast Parkway was originally intended to extend all the way to the Florida-Georgia state line in Jefferson County, Florida, but residents expressed opposition to the development.

According to the Turnpike Authority’s maps, the proposed routes for the current turnpike extension do not run all the way to Jefferson County, but the northernmost terminus would end in Chiefland, Florida, in Levy County.

Organizations have popped up opposing the development of the turnpike extension, including No Roads to Ruin, a coalition of groups seeking to stop the roads. They said the extension would destroy Florida’s natural environment and rural lands leading to pollution.

“If built, this extension would destroy large swaths of Florida’s last remaining rural lands, threaten waterways with pollution, endanger iconic wildlife, disrupt farmlands, and promote unsustainable sprawl. It is no surprise that of nearly 10,000 comments submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation regarding proposed M-CORES toll routes, 93% were opposed. Florida’s remaining natural areas are worth more than the sum of their parts. Residents in counties like Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter know that when we start paving over our rural heritage and wild places, there is no turning back.”

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Turnpike Northbound Exit 4X: Homestead Extension” by formulanone. CC BY-SA 2.0.