Progress Florida labeled Florida Senate President Bill Galvano’s ambitious toll road plans a “Billionaire Boulevard” and public “boondoggle.”
“Billionaire land developers are looking to cash in on their big campaign contributions to Florida’s legislative leaders,” wrote Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida executive director, in a call to action email Saturday.
“As I write this, they’re working furiously to pass one of the biggest land grabs in decades, threatening large swathes of natural Florida in the process.”
Ferrulo goes on the describe a plan to build three toll roads through rural Florida as a “scheme” that needs to be stopped.
But Galvano this week signaled toll roads remain a top priority for the Senate. Since the start of Session, the Bradenton Republican has pushed for growing the state road network.
Plans include extending the Suncoast Parkway and the Florida Turnpike. Galvano also wants a toll road connecting from Polk County south to Collier County, a path similar to the shelved Heartland Parkway, which could spur economic development in the easternmost parts of his own district.
Galvano said before Session that expanding infrastructure would stop a population exodus from those areas of Florida.
State Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, has carried the Senate legislation (SB 7068), which cleared the Appropriations Committee and awaits a floor vote.
The bill has yet to receive a no vote in a Senate committee. But Democrats have called for more environmental safeguards. After Lee put the bill on hold last week, it’s expected to come up for a vote Tuesday.
Now Progress Florida has started to rally opposition, with Ferrulo saying “everything is wrong with this plan.”
The group characterized it as payback for major landowners and development interests. Ferrulo calls out by name Interactive Brokers CEO Thomas Peterffy, who owns the land under consideration for road stretches.
“Florida simply does not need more asphalt industry-backed rural toll roads and the numerous problems they bring: more traffic, more pollution, and more threats to our springs, lakes and rivers,” Ferrulo wrote.
While Galvano has promised the roads will also come with expanded infrastructure like broadband and sewer, Ferrulo said that’s part of the problem.
“These toll roads aren’t just roads — they bring additional sewer and utilities infrastructure as well,” he wrote.
“This is a recipe for out of control urban sprawl that will further strain our state’s water resources, contribute to climate change, and wreak havoc on wildlife and wilderness.”