SB 7068 establishes new multi-use corridors in
rural areas of regional economic significance
Florida Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) today joined Governor Ron DeSantis for the signing of Senate Bill (SB) 7068, legislation to create 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.
“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,” said President Galvano. “I appreciate the hard work of Senator Tom Lee who developed this legislation and successfully advanced it through the legislative process. I am grateful to Governor DeSantis for partnering with the Florida Legislature to embrace an innovative approach to infrastructure that will enable Florida to strategically plan for future population growth, while at the same time revitalizing rural communities, protecting our unique natural resources, and enhancing public safety.”
“This legislation is a long-term investment that will provide numerous benefits to our state infrastructure. Regional connectivity not only enhances trade and tourism, but also mitigates congestion and provides additional evacuation routes. For residents in rural areas of our state, investment in broadband, water, and sewer systems will improve the quality of life and the preservation of natural resources,” said former Senate President Tom Lee (R-Thonotosassa), Senator of the 20th District and Chair of the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security. “With this legislation signed into law today, we are taking a huge step forward in our work to sustain the historic rural communities that have powered Florida’s economy for generations.”
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).
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.
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.