SB 7068 establishes new multi-use corridors in
rural areas of regional economic significance
The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill (SB) 7068, creating the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Program within the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The program is designed to advance construction of three regional corridors that will accommodate multiple modes of transportation and various infrastructure improvements including broadband and sewer access, among others.
“Recent estimates tell us Florida is gaining over 850 people a day, or a population the size of the city of Orlando every year. We need to be ready,” said Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton). “I am confident these new infrastructure corridors will help achieve Florida’s goal of strategically planning for future population growth, while at the same time revitalizing rural communities and enhancing public safety. The benefits of this type of long-term investment in our infrastructure include regional connectivity that enhances trade and tourism, congestion mitigation and evacuation routes, as well as broadband, water, and sewer connectivity that helps preserve our natural resources while improving quality of life for residents in rural areas of our state.”
SB 7068 identifies the following three corridors comprising the M-CORES Program:
- Southwest-Central Florida Connector (Collier County to Polk County);
- Suncoast Connector (Citrus County to Jefferson County);
- Northern Turnpike Connector (northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway).
“Infrastructure is more than traditional transportation elements including roads, bridges, seaports and airports. Infrastructure also includes utility and communication resources that provide access to clean water and reliable broadband connectivity,” continued President Galvano. “Additionally, our experience with hurricanes has taught us how intrinsically linked infrastructure is to security, preparation, and recovery, from evacuation routes to speedy restoration of cellular service and electrical power.”
The bill requires that decisions regarding corridor configuration, project alignment, and interchange locations be determined in accordance with the FDOT’s rules, policies, and procedures. The legislation requires FDOT to convene a taskforce for each of the three corridors made up of representatives of appropriate state agencies, water management districts, local governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and Regional Planning Councils as well as several conservation, community and environmental organizations.
Each task force will consult with FDOT on corridor analysis, including accommodating multiple types of infrastructure in the corridor. This includes evaluation of corridor need, economic and environmental impacts, hurricane evacuation needs, and land use impacts. The bill requires public hearings in each local government jurisdiction to ensure local communities have a significant and meaningful opportunity for input.
Each corridor task force will also consider and recommend innovative concepts to combine right-of-way acquisition with the acquisition of lands or easements to facilitate environmental mitigation, or ecosystem, wildlife habitat, or water quality protection or restoration, while balancing to the greatest extent practical that the corridor configurations, project alignment, and interchange locations are not located within conservation lands acquired under the Florida Preservation 2000 Act and the Florida Forever Program. The legislation also requires each corridor task force to evaluate wildlife crossing design features to protect panther and other critical wildlife habitat corridor connections, and to evaluate design features and the need for acquisition of state conservation lands that mitigate impacts to wildlife, water quality, and agricultural land uses. Project construction cannot be funded until a report is completed.
“In the past, much of Florida’s infrastructure funding has primarily been focused on Florida’s urban areas in order to improve safety, relieve congestion, create mobility, and to promote commerce and tourism. While this funding has improved access and created economic growth for our urban areas along our coasts and in Central Florida, there has not always been the same focus on large portions of rural Florida,” continued President Galvano. “These legacy communities are the backbone of our state and have powered its economy for generations. In recent years, these vital communities have suffered from impacts to farming, resulting in an exodus and loss of local rural economies. Florida’s success cannot depend solely on the perimeter of our state. We must work together to sustain these historic rural communities. The time has come to prioritize these critical infrastructure enhancements and to combine those efforts with innovations that enhance surrounding communities, while providing new opportunities for job creation.”
SB 7068 authorizes additional funding for the Small County Road Assistance Program, the Small County Outreach Program, and the Transportation Disadvantaged Trust Fund.
The bill also creates and provides funding for a construction workforce development program within the FDOT. Building on the FDOT’s current workforce development services, the program is intended to serve as a tool for addressing the existing construction labor shortage by training individuals in skills necessary to deliver projects in the FDOT five-year work program, including multi-use corridor projects, on time and within budget.
To the maximum extent feasible, construction of the projects must begin no later than December 31, 2022, and be open to traffic no later than December 31, 2030.