The problem with the arguments presented by both FDOT and FTE are that the facts don't back up their lofty claims. A little searching on the internet offers reams of information which counters all of their arguments, for those arguments are used all over the country. I learned that a number of years ago when I was very active in the citizen's group that fought the Tampa to Jacksonville superhighway proposal that FDOT was aggressively pushing.
Our biggest success came from the Alachua County Commission in voting NO to a new superhighway or toll expressway through Alachua County. Levy County also took such a position, but from my witnessing the project proposal being discussed, all other counties seemed to be quite supportive or silent at best. So, now that the gears have been switched to put FTE in the lead position, the battle is reborn with Citrus and Marion counties under the gun. Unless the county commissioners stand with the people who will be paying the price, some type of roadway is likely to result. And believe me when I say this struggle isn't over for Alachua County yet, either, as politics can often blow with the wind and change with time. Stay involved or end up in tears, it's just as simple as that.
So, what is the best way to fight the project that has literally never been totally removed from the drawing board? I think the only argument that they will ever listen to is one about economics. For some reason, politicians never stand as strong as they should for environmental issues because they see the "green poison" being waved at them from the Chamber of Commerce, big developers and large scale builders. The "green poison" is campaign promises and dreams of added tax revenue to government coffers, yet the negative economic impact is sidelined until much later. And when it finally suffers, it's always huge in the cost to repair the damage that has been done.
Ask for their cost benefit analysis figures, look at the existing projections for growth in the area and what drives it. Who are those really pushing the project? What personal gain can they anticipate and what is the cost in dollars that will be borne by you? These are just starters but be skeptical of their data for they really aren't very good at doing their homework and their projections are usually very lofty. And then look at the results of the past. While the Suncoast Parkway toll road has been a big loser so far, so have most other toll roads around the country. The private companies that often end up running them go bankrupt since the traffic projections are very inaccurate. And then what happens? The government has to take over the project and pay for its upkeep, yet the money from tolls is woefully inadequate.
Just how much growth can Florida handle and still be an attractive vacation spot? And what about the value of her agricultural product and the negative impact of it being urbanized? Florida is a state of over 65,000 square miles, but only 53,00o square miles of land. Now being the third most populous state, politicians and their developer friends see it as growing much larger as if she had the land mass of California or Texas, states that are two and one half and four and one half times larger. And if we turn the entire state into Miami-Dade, what will that do to the tourist trade?
No one ever answers questions such as those, so in fighting the beast of development, it is necessary to provide both questions and answers and give them a wide audience. Educate the public and the politicians about the truth in economic terms, whether its about how big the ports can grow and sustain themselves or the adverse impact on the horse industry. Contrary to their claims, you can't have it all. But you can have that which makes sense. And force feeding new growth and record populations until the land explodes in protest is not an answer.
I'm sorry if this post was a bit of a diatribe today, but anyone wanting to have a livable future needs to get involved. I found out years ago that a few speak up, but it needs a lot more than a few. Just make sure what you say has been researched, shows the true fallacy of their arguments in economic terms and spread the word for all to see. The truth of the matter is that Florida has been subjected to huge development schemes for nearly one hundred and fifty years and some of the biggest schemers now have places and even counties named in their honor. Amazing, isn't it? Only the people can change that and it's never easy. The question is: Is it worth it? Each citizen must ponder answer that individually, then act accordingly.