We interrupt this week of thanks for a map of something no one really wants.
It’s the Florida Turnpike extension! You know, that thing we’ve been waiting for over the last nearly 40 years to connect Florida’s Turnpike at Wildwood to, well, SOMEWHERE west.
The Suncoast Parkway is just months away from opening at S.R. 44, an event that has Citrus County business and political leaders giddy.
Not so much with the turnpike plan. It may be even less giddy now that the state is showing two proposed toll road alignments through our community where there is no such plan now.
FDOT maps show four proposed alignments to take the turnpike from Wildwood at I-75 to U.S. 19 north of Crystal River.
Two of the alignments cut swaths through Sumter, Marion and Levy counties, meaning they are almost certain to fail. Local governments in those communities have already objected to similar toll road plans in the past.
Two of the alignments cut through parts of Citrus, including one rather aggressive route slicing right through Citrus Springs along W. Hampshire Boulevard.
This turnpike plan may be new but the concept has been around since the 1980s when the state said it would extend the turnpike to Lebanon Station, a dot on the map 25 miles north of Crystal River. Those plans never went anywhere.
We know state politicians want to create a toll road network in northwest Florida. It’s to connect urban areas to one of the few regions in Florida we can go to escape such places.
Citrus County’s political and business community leaders were right on board with the Suncoast Parkway from the start. It was quite the debate around here for years between the pro- and anti-parkway folks. The pro-parkway side won out, obviously.
However, unlike the parkway, I can’t find a single cheerleader for the turnpike extension. Not one.
It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. The legislation requires the Florida Department of Transportation to have a turnpike extension plan that includes a “logical and appropriate terminus” by December 2022. The state apparently believes that terminus is U.S. 19 between Crystal River and Chiefland.
FDOT has a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7 at CF in Lecanto. The county commission meets the week before – 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30 at the courthouse. I mention this because the board has not taken a position one way or another on the turnpike. Might be nice to hear their views on this.
If you live near the yellow areas on the map, pay attention but keep this in mind: It took nearly 20 years for the state to continue the parkway north from U.S. 98.
Big shout-out to David Schraml of Citrus Springs, whose letter to the editor in Saturday's Chronicle spelled out how to find the maps. Click here and the turnpike project info should pop up; if not, type in project number 14480 in the little box to the left. And share the post, please, so we can get these maps out there for folks to see.
So, what do you think? Does this turnpike extension make good sense for Citrus County?
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.