With SB 7068 Now Law, Coalition Focuses on Need for Diverse Taskforces to Collaboratively Address Water, Sewer, Broadband, Business Concerns
Tallahassee, Fla. – Voices from across the state, including a former emergency management advisor and several business and trade associations, today announced they’ve formed the ‘Connecting Florida’ coalition. The coalition is focused on infrastructure needs for Florida’s future by connecting rural communities to the world commerce and world-class destinations to tourists, providing efficient interstate and intrastate commerce and safe evacuation routes, while protecting and enhancing our precious natural resources.
By supporting the creation of multi-use corridors of regional economic significance, this group of supporters will seek to support the mission to prioritize critical infrastructure enhancements and other connectivity services for the benefit of all Floridians.
Craig Fugate, former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and former Florida Emergency Management director, said, “We are glad Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature recognized there was a need to implement a law to address the future transportation infrastructure needs of our state. Now, our focus is on the formulation of the taskforces and the long-term infrastructure goals under Connecting Florida. I am proud to be a part of such a diverse coalition, and I look forward to seeing this new law work for the betterment of transportation alternatives, which also translates to better hurricane evacuation routes for a state that only has so many ways to travel from the bottom to the top.”
Members of Connecting Florida supported Governor Ron DeSantis signing the “Innovation in Infrastructure” plan, Senate Bill 7068, into law. This law will create three regional corridors to accommodate multiple modes of transportation, including the Southwest-Central Florida Connector, the Suncoast Connector and the Northern Turnpike Connector. The law will also provide various infrastructure improvements, including broadband and sewer access, as well as addressing future population growth, economic development in rural areas, and provide additional hurricane evacuation routes.
Currently, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has until August 1, 2019, to form three taskforces as outlined in the law.
According to a press release from Florida Senate President Bill Galvano’s office, the taskforces for the three corridors will consist of “representatives from 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 [law] 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 [law] 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.”
Joining the coalition in support of smart growth and development for infrastructure needs for Florida’s future, include, but will not be limited to:
- Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida
- Associated Industries of Florida
- Florida Chamber of Commerce
- Florida Council of 100
- American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida/Florida Engineering Society
- Florida Internet & Television
- Florida Ports Council
- Florida Public Transportation Association
- Florida Transportation and Builders’ Association
- Florida Trucking Association
- Reason Foundation
Doug Wheeler, Florida Ports Council President and CEO, said, “The Florida Ports Council is an advocate for opening the doors to new transportation and economic opportunities in our state. We believe this new law will go a long way in enhancing the flow of trade and tourism, easing congestion by leveraging the funds provided with additional local and federal funds, and providing Floridians with additional evacuation and hurricane resiliency routes. We also believe the Florida Department of Transportation has the leadership, professionalism and expertise to ensure adequate and proper planning is provided so all possible environmental and construction mitigation is accounted for and any reasonable concerns over economic and environmental impacts, hurricane evacuation needs and land use impacts are addressed.”
Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Florida Chamber, along with our long and steady infrastructure and growth leadership efforts, are proud to partner with Connecting Florida. With 900 new residents moving to Florida each day, connectivity is more important than ever. By combining our collective efforts, we can help ensure Florida is prepared for smart and safe growth.”
Bob Ward, president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100, said, “The Council of 100 is pleased to stand in support of this new coalition whose goal is to enhance our infrastructure. Our research – through our Project Sunrise report – has shown there is a need to strengthen our regional economics to ensure a resilient and prosperous Florida. We are thankful for the Governor and the Florida Legislature for recognizing this need this session, and we look forward to working with our state leaders to build on historic strengths, built on today and built for the future.”
Tom Feeney, Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO, said, “AIF joins the Connecting Florida coalition in support of Florida’s future infrastructure needs, including connecting our rural communities to world commerce. As an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, AIF is always looking at ways our state can promote modern manufacturing, grow our talent pool and accelerate our free-enterprise competitiveness in our state, across our nation and around the globe. We applaud the efforts of our Governor and the Florida Legislature to make this infrastructure opportunity become a reality for the future of the great State of Florida.”
Brad Swanson, Florida Internet & Television President & CEO, said, “Florida Internet & Television is excited to continue to work in order to better Florida’s infrastructure and ensure our state is the most connected in the country. Through this coalition, Floridians will be more informed on how we can reap the benefits of 10G and high-speed broadband connectivity through smart infrastructure faster than our country has ever seen before.”
Allen Douglas, American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida/Florida Engineering Society Executive Director, said, The American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida and the Florida Engineering Society proudly support transportation measures that meet the following goals: safety, infrastructure condition, mobility, economy and the environment. We believe in Connecting Florida’s mission to plan for future infrastructure needs that meet these criteria, and look forward to playing a lead role in the design and construction of a system that addresses the unique needs of our state.”
Ken Armstrong, Florida Trucking Association President and CEO, said, “Florida Trucking Association is proud to be a part of the coalition, as we work together to develop innovative solutions to improve infrastructure in our state. The cost of congestion to the trucking industry was $5.6 billion in 2016, which ultimately affects every Floridian—in the cost of goods and quality of life. Building three new multi-use corridors to help connect Florida will be a positive step to ensure our residents and visitors stay safe on the road and our economy continues to grow. We support Governor DeSantis’ commitment to protect Florida’s environment and natural resources and are confident good choices will be made as plans are developed for new roadways in the Sunshine State.”