TAMPA (WFLA) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is one signature away from possibly approving the expansion of the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to the Georgia line and connecting a series of other tolls across the state as environmental groups protest.
The Sierra Club will be leading a protest urging DeSantis to veto the bill Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Williams Park in St. Petersburg.
Approved legislation allows for the construction of a new toll road from the Collier County/Fort Myers area to Polk County.
It would also connect the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway and then take it up to Jefferson County near Tallahassee to the Georgia line.
Exact routes haven’t been paved out yet but supporters said the three toll roads would bring rural communities back to life by encouraging growth, creating more jobs, and connecting regions across the state.
Democratic state Rep. Wengay Newton out of the Tampa Bay area approves the move.
“We also got to make sure we have the capacity to get people out of harm’s way when imminent danger is upon us. As you saw with Irma when we reversed all the lanes on I-75, it was a parking lot,” Newton said.
Members of the Florida Sierra Club, the largest environmental organization in the country believe urban sprawl would destroy hundreds of acres of habitats unique to Florida, and lead to a hefty price tag of more than $1 billion.
“That money, $1.3 billion comes out of our general revenue for the next 10 years or so; that money could be spent on just about anything else but instead it’s being spent on these tollways that nobody’s really asking for except for a handful of wealthy landowners,” said Tim Martin, conservation chair of the Florida Sierra Club.
“By comparing himself with Teddy Roosevelt, Gov. DeSantis is showing that he actually might care about conservation and if that’s true and he really wants to wear the mantle of Teddy Roosevelt Republican, then he really has to veto this bill,” Martin said.
DeSantis received the bill Monday and now has roughly 15 days to either sign it or veto it.
Construction could start in 2022 with everything finished by 2030.