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Florida paves way for new highways

Plans for expanding the Sunshine State's highways are moving through the Florida Senate
Posted: 5:51 PM, Mar 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-14 21:51:51Z
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LEON COUNTY, Fla. — Plans for expanding the Sunshine State's highways are moving through the Florida Senate.

Senate President Bill Galvano's proposed project was unanimously supported by the committee.

One of the biggest draws about this proposed bill is that it will open more state routes for Floridians - which will make a huge difference when it comes to future hurricane evacuations. And if you were driving along I-10 during Hurricane Irma evacuations , you definitely remember the congestion we saw for days as people were heading out of Florida.

It's issues just like this that Senate President Galvano says this project will alleviate.

"It was an historic event because it was the first time the state's history that 6.5 million people were ordered to evacuate the state. And I think everyone who was here experienced the grid-lock and the massive amount of people on the roads," said Chris Rietow, Executive Director of Apalachee Regional Planning Council.

Rietow completed the state's Hurricane Irma after-action report. The biggest lesson learned was it isn't easy to coordinate millions of Floridians leaving the state, instead, evacuations led to statewide congestion. Many sat unmoving in their cars for hours.

"The track of that storm was the worst case scenario. As it moved up the spine, it triggered evacuations all the way up the state. Having additional roads built would certainly alleviate a lot of the traffic that was experienced by folks," said Rietow.

The proposal would extend the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa north to Georgia, expand Florida's Turnpike west to hook up with the Suncoast Parkway and build a new route from Collier County to Orlando. The expansion cold even bring an added bonus.

"In the 70's when the interstate was built, it really isolated a lot of our rural communities," said Rietow. "Having additional road networks that come through rural areas would certainly be an opportunity for economic development."

Senate President Galvano says Florida is one of the fastest growing states, something lawmakers will have to consider as they prepare for the next emergency.

The bill proposes planning essentially from scratch, with environmental impact studies helping determine if there are alternatives along the way.

This proposal calls for construction to begin by the end of 2022, with the new roads opening in 2030.