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Environmentalists concerned about major state road project, others in support

The Southwest-Central Florida Connector is supposed to make commutes for motorists easier and help during hurricane evacuations. But there are those who are against the connector because they say it’s bad for the environment.

For hours, Southwest-Central Florida Connector Task Force members discussed the pros and cons of a possible corridor running through the center of the state from Collier County to Polk County Monday.

In the last 90 minutes of the meeting, members of the public had a chance to comment, and many had a lot to say about the project.

One public speaker stood before the task force to share their support for the effort.

“I can tell you as a person who was forced to evacuate for Hurricane Irma, that additional hurricane evacuation routes are desperately needed,” the pubic commenter said.

Other commenters shared their disapproval of the proposed corridor that would start in Southwest Florida and make its way to Central Florida.

“We don’t want to see this project happen at all,” said Michael McGrath, a Sierra Club representative. “We are trying to push for a no-build option for this project.”

The “No Roads To Ruin” coalition is made up of businesses and organizations with a common concern: The impact of this new road on Florida’s environment.

“We really don’t need to keep destroying more of our wetlands, more of our precious habitats,”” said Diana Umpierre, a Sierra Club representative.

Supporters of the road project said it would be a step in the right direction for a growing area, creating jobs and alternative hurricane routes and a connection for rural communities.

The project is in its early stages, and Florida Department of Transportation said public input will play a role in how it evolves.

The next task force meeting is set schedule for February in Moore Haven in Glades County.

FDOT will also host a community open house in Naples Thursday, where members of the public can share their opinions.

“I know there’s groups out there that oppose the roads” Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said. “But, again, as we grow in SWFL, we need to have the roads to provide infrastructure in our community.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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