Had a great conversation Tuesday morning with a former county commissioner about the state of things in Citrus County these days.
We talked about the need for community conversation regarding the issues smacking us in the face at the moment: growth, traffic, lack of workforce housing, the changing face of our county.
Our chat meandered to the Florida Turnpike extension and it dawned on me right at that moment:
We should stop tap dancing around it and state the obvious. The last thing we all want right now is to debate another toll road.
And for that reason, plus the ridiculous timeline the state has placed on this turnpike study, the county’s position should be no thanks.
Now, before all the no-builders add me to their email list, let me jump right out and say that’s not where I’m going with this.
Yes, the no-build crowd presented a decent argument why Florida hasn’t made the case for this road and no one, they’ve noted, is talking about water, wildlife habitat, mowing down houses — you know, the important stuff.
But the other side, if there is one, hasn’t had a chance to rev up yet.
And there’s the problem. Time. The Florida Department of Transportation needs to have its turnpike route report into the Legislature by the end of this year. Supposedly, we will see the corridor map before then, right?
It’s absurd, and insulting actually, to demand Citrus County residents, community leaders, politicians and the rest of us come to a “yay” or “nay” decision on a road we know nothing about in such a brief period of time.
I’m not one of those who are ready to jump onboard FDOT on this turnpike thing the way we did with Suncoast Parkway. These are two totally different animals.
I recall the parkway debate that raged here. Whether you support the parkway or not, there’s no doubt it had a pretty significant public airing over the course of 25 years. (I’m excluding the C.R. 486 interchange/Pine Ridge issue, which literally did not exist until the county asked for an exit there.)
Citrus County residents deserve the time to have a serious talk about the turnpike extension. I don’t know how long that is, but it’s surely more than a year.
Plus, let’s be honest. It couldn’t be worse timing for the state to be pushing a new toll road through Citrus County. We are facing a ton of challenges right now — we see them every day behind the wheel — and asking us to invest energy in another toll road suggests the state isn’t reading our tea leaves all that well.
The county commission is planning a workshop in the coming months to get feedback on the turnpike, but all they’re really going to hear are opinions for or against. We don’t have time to talk about it in any more detail because of the legislative time constraint.
This is totally the county’s call. I know the commission would prefer to tell the state yes, bring it in but avoid certain areas. And, given time, that’s likely where the county’s position would have ended up.
But the state’s rush is not our problem. It’s given us no choice but to pass.
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