Toll road proposed to connect Polk and Collier counties is still in the early stages

A 140-mile stretch of road in Southwest Florida could become a new toll road. Truckers and farmers hope this will connect Polk and Collier Counties.

This task force has only just begun to consider whether or not the toll road is even necessary.

The Florida Trucking Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce are both in favor. Many environmental groups, not the other hand, oppose the new road.

The State of Florida is planning for the future. “Generations of Floridians will look back at this time as a pivotal in the state’s history,” said Kevin Thibault, with the Florida Department of Transportation.

He says the population is growing and changing. “It’s hard to believe that just 50 years ago, the county’s population, some of these county’s population was just 11,000 residents. Today, Hendry County is expected to have four times that amount and continue to grow,”  Thibault said.

A state task force is considering the growth in their determination of if a new toll road connected Collier to Polk is even necessary.

“There’s no path and there’s no guarantee the road is going to go through there,” Thibault said.

But Governor DeSantis and the Republican leadership in the state legislature are pushing for that highway.

Collier County Commissioner and task member Penny Taylor has many questions. “If the road is going to go here, what are our concerns, what do we really need to look at, what communities would love to have this economic development assuming the road doesn’t bypass them,” Taylor said.

Julianne Thomas from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida opposes the toll road. “It would be catastrophic to the Florida panther. It would negatively impact their ability to recover and survive,” she said.

She fears that it will impact animals such as the Florida Panther by ruining their habitat. “Every time you widen a road or build a new road through panther habitat, you’re making it harder for panthers to live there,” said Thomas.

Collier County Commissioners voted last week to support the project if it wouldn’t affect other FDOT projects currently in the pipeline. Commissioner Taylor did say they want to see improvements to State Road 29 and that she wouldn’t want to see that be put on the backburner.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Drew Hill
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