Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Don’t worry; we won’t have to pay tolls around here anytime soon. This past week, I went to a community open house in Day, Florida. I was hoping there would be a presentation stating where the toll road would be going, but the meeting felt more like a school science fair. After signing in at the front table, we were invited to look at the information presented around the room. There were about 20 large signs placed around the room, and next to every couple of signs was a person who asked if we had any questions. There were even two large interactive video screens where you could overlay much of the information presented on the signs. The most frustrating thing about this meeting was that no one could tell me where the road was going, if it was going to be built on top of an existing roadway, or if an entirely new path would be created. The only certainty is there will be a toll road near Suwannee County sooner rather than later, and there is probably no way we can stop it.

To make the idea of a toll road more palatable, the state is calling these new toll roads M-CORES. M-CORES stands for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance. The stated purpose of the program is to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation, provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, and enhance the quality of life, all while protecting the environment. One of the signs on display at the M-CORES meeting let us know just how poor and uneducated the counties that will be affected by the toll road are. I guess we are to believe that this toll road will be a magic carpet bringing economic prosperity and educational opportunities to us all. I don’t mind the idea of alleviating traffic on I-75 by creating a new road from Tampa to I-10, but why make residents of these poor counties pay to use this road?

I left South Florida in 2003, partly because I didn’t like all of the tolls I had to pay. I am disappointed that a toll road will now plague our part of the state. I am going to be upset if it ends up costing everyone fifty cents or a dollar to go between Mayo and Branford. As I was leaving the M-CORES meeting, I left a suggestion in the comments box on a table in the center of the room. My suggestion was to please not charge a toll for residents to go between nearby communities in this area. I am not sure anyone is going to read it and even less hopeful that residents of nearby counties will be able to avoid paying tolls.

If you would like to provide input on the new toll road, the project that will be closest to Suwannee County is called the Suncoast Corridor. You can email FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us. More information can be found online at FloridaMCORES.com. Maybe someone will actually read you email, and maybe this new toll road won’t negatively affect Suwannee County.

Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at miamistyle8@gmail.com.

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