Citrus County Commission takes wait-and-see approach on turnpike

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'Before you know it, this major thing is coming through your community.'

Citrus County commissioners have heard from constituents about the proposed Florida Turnpike extension, and the reactions are mixed.

They’ve heard from people who think it’s a great idea to connect Citrus County regionally with Orlando, from an economic standpoint and for hurricane evacuation.

They’ve heard from those who think it’s a lousy idea to bring yet another toll road through the county, causing potential environmental destruction and mowing down houses.

And constituents all want to know from commissioners: What do you think?

Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach raised that issue this week, and the board’s collective thinking was not to get out in front until more is known.

The turnpike extension from Wildwood to an undetermined point on U.S. 19 or the Suncoast Parkway was the surviving project from M-CORES — Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance. While the other two — extending the Suncoast Parkway to Interstate 10 in Jefferson County and the Southwest Florida Connector between Polk and Collier counties — were either eliminated or scaled back, the turnpike connector remains.

The Florida Department of Transportation is proposing four alignments, including two through Citrus County. FDOT had public meetings last week in Citrus and Levy counties; a final report is required by the Legislature by the end of 2022.

With Citrus County officials planning an annual visit to the Capitol in January to meet with legislators and agency directors, Schlabach said she wanted to make sure Citrus was speaking as a single voice when it came to the turnpike.

“I’m not asking for a yes or no. I want us to have a conversation,” she said.

Schlabach said her concern is that plans will protect politically connected land owners while seeing “vulnerable communities get plowed through.”

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“Before you know it, this major thing is coming through your community,” she added.

Chair Ron Kitchen Jr. noted the county has no more information than the public.

“What we’re dealing with is rumor,” he said.

Kitchen said the county should coordinate with FDOT.

“We want in the loop. We want in their conversation,” he said.

And likewise, Commissioner Jeff Kinnard suggested a cautious approach.

“I want to make sure we’re all singing from the same page,” he said.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


2 comments

  • Pat Wade

    December 18, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    This road will be the death of rural counties and the Nature Coast. Comments at the Citrus and Levy meetings were overwhelming against the road. Let’s kill this plan now. We are tired of the plan coming back in a different form every year. Fix I75 as was promised in the prior meetings. Ignore Charles Lee he does not speak for the majority.

  • Mike Draught

    December 19, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Death of the Nature Coast? Check out US-19 through Homosassa and Crystal River some time. It’s an automotive exhaust festival. Cars idling in stop-and-go traffic. Nature, be damned.
    Connecting Tpk with Suncoast Pkwy extension sounds like a decent idea, but it’s not going to be much fun once you land on SR 44.
    Tpk’s current terminus at I 75 is a mitigated disaster, causing major clogs at the merge. Mitigated only by the multiple lanes that, unfortunately, shrink back to 3 a bit too quickly.

Comments are closed.


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