Florida needs new high­ways for a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - By J.C. Martin

As a re­tired fire chief, I’ve seen my fair share of in­ter­state ac­ci­dents. These ac­ci­dents range in sever­ity from fender ben­ders to, un­for­tu­nately, more se­vere ac­ci­dents, but as Florida’s pop­u­la­tion grows, so too will the num­ber of ac­ci­dents we see on our in­ter­states.

Sta­tis­tics from last sum­mer show 906 peo­ple are mov­ing to Florida ev­ery day and over 330,000 peo­ple are mov­ing to Florida ev­ery year. In 2030, Florida is ex­pected to be home to 26 mil­lion peo­ple — that’s nearly a 5-mil­lion-per­son in­crease from to­day.

As Florida wel­comes these new res­i­dents to the state, our roads, in­clud­ing our in­ter­states, will be­come more crowded, whether from our res­i­dents or our new level of com­merce uti­liz­ing our road­ways.

Many of you know and have ex­pe­ri­enced that our cur­rent in­ter­state is al­ready feel­ing this growth. If you’ve ever trav­eled on In­ter­state 4 or In­ter­state 75 near Tampa, you’ve most likely been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traf­fic at some point. And, this is now with 5 mil­lion fewer res­i­dents than we’re ex­pected to have in 2030.

This is ex­actly why I think it’s so im­por­tant for the state to plan now for our fu­ture in­ter­state needs by mov­ing for­ward with the Multi-use Cor­ri­dors of Re­gional Eco­nomic Sig­nif­i­cance (M-CORES) pro­gram.

M-CORES will bring three new in­ter­state cor­ri­dors to the state that are strate­gi­cally placed to take cars off U.S. High­way 27, I-75 and the Florida’s Turn­pike. These roads are also pro­jected to be com­pleted by 2030, in time to take on all of Florida’s new res­i­dents and our in­crease in com­merce.

Now, I’ve heard many peo­ple say that we don’t need these roads and that we need to pre­serve Florida. I get it, I grew up on a farm and I live in a ru­ral area of Polk County; I un­der­stand the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing what is unique to Florida. How­ever, I be­lieve this is a project that we can­not wait on, and that we can ac­com­plish both: pre­par­ing our in­fra­struc­ture now for the fu­ture and pro­tect­ing our one-of-a-kind en­vi­ron­ment.

If we wait un­til these res­i­dents are here to start work­ing on our in­fra­struc­ture, it will be too late, and we’ll be stuck try­ing to play catch up with Florida’s growth that we al­ready know is com­ing.

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