Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Thursday reversing the state’s proposed toll road expansion.
That comes the day after lawmakers formally sent the measure (SB 100) to his desk scrapping the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program and many of the initiatives that came with it.
The move to repeal the toll road initiative comes two years after DeSantis signed a bill exploring the concept into law. The three proposed toll roads were a priority of then-Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican.
The bill cancels plans for the Heartland Parkway, a toll road envisioned to stretch from Polk County south to Collier County. It also undoes plans to extend the Florida Turnpike.
And with the roadways, the repeal bill also cancels much of the related infrastructure improvements imagined when the M-CORES plan was crafted two years ago.
The legislation does leave in place plans to extend the Suncoast Parkway to the Georgia-Florida state line.
With the M-CORES plans shelved, more than $130 million earmarked for that plan will remain in a transportation trust. The legislation calls for the Department of Transportation to focus resources on improvements to existing infrastructure and roadways.
Environmental groups and some counties have opposed M-CORES. Galvano’s successor, Wilton Simpson, supported scaling back the plan in part because of diminishing gas tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The possible repeal also follows task force studies released in November in which researchers weren’t able to reach a conclusion on the need for the toll roads.
Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, drove the effort in the upper chamber to reexamine the plan. It wasn’t clear until the last weeks of Session whether the matter would have any traction in the House, where there was no formal companion legislation. But Rep. Jayer Williamson, a Pace Republican, picked up the bill after it passed in the Senate.
The measure passed the House unanimously after receiving one no vote in the Senate.
In a statement after the bill signing, Florida Transportation Builders’ Association President Ananth Prasad called the bill a smart first step to begin addressing the issue.
“By signing Senate Bill 100 into law, Governor Ron DeSantis has helped in taking action to responsibly address both short-term and long-term infrastructure needs in our state, and I thank him for recognizing the need for this important legislation,” Prasad said.
“All signs point to continued growth for Florida, which means more vehicles traveling on our roadways,” he continued. “Because of this, Florida will need both new and improved roads throughout our state to accommodate them.”