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Budget conference: Toll road reports could get extension

The due date could move from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15.

Session might not be the only thing going long.

New language added in budget negotiations could extend the deadline for a final report on a series of toll road expansions.

The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance program, or M-CORES, would extend the Tampa-area Suncoast Parkway to the Florida-Georgia line, connect the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway, and construct the Southwest-Central Florida Connector between Polk and Collier counties.

The expansion, greenlit in the 2019 Legislative Session, was the signature piece of policy pushed by Bill Galvano during his term as Senate President.

Under the 2019 bill, final reports covering the “corridor need, economic and environmental impacts, hurricane evacuation needs, and land use impacts” must be turned in by the M-CORES task forces by Oct. 1, 2020.

The budget language being kicked around in the waning days of the 2020 Legislative Session would push the deadline back six weeks to Nov. 15, 2020.

The reports are being prepared alongside numerous public comment workshops held throughout the affected areas.

This year, lawmakers have approved legislation that could potentially sweeten the deal for rural communities in the path of the new roads.

One proposal (HB 969) that’s awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature would create the Florida Office of Broadband and make it the lead agency on high speed internet installation.

The bill would set aside $5 million a year in M-CORES funding for “projects that assist in the development of broadband infrastructure within or adjacent to a multiuse corridor.” Senate sponsor Ben Albritton said the push came from the Department of Economic Opportunity and would ensure the new toll roads bring value to the region it connects.

Funding preference would be given to “underserved” communities, defined as those without internet service exceeding 10 megabits.

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Florida Politics reporter Renzo Downey contributed to this post.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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