Wills named to toll road task force for Central/SW Florida

LABELLE — Hendry County Commission Chairman Mitchell Wills has been named to represent the county on the new Southwest-Central Florida Connector Task Force.

The task force’s mission is to evaluate the Southwest-Central Florida Connector corridor, which extends from Collier County to Polk County. A toll road is planned to be built in the region. The task force will work in coordination with the Florida Department of Transportation to address the need for the corridor and its potential economic and environmental impacts, according to an announcement that Hendry County posted on its Facebook page and website.

Makeup of the body, which has 45 members representing the counties involved, was announced last week. This is part of the advisory structure set up under the controversial Senate Bill 7068 passed by the Florida Legislature in the 2019 session and recently signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It requires the state to build two new toll roads and extend a third highway through rural parts of Southwest and Central Florida, including Highlands, Glades and Hendry counties.

That will be the Collier-to-Polk tollway, which will run through and connect nine counties and 36 cities and towns, where there are 2.25 million Floridians living already. It also takes in Polk, Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

The program the new law sets up to plan for the roads is called the Multi-Use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (or M-CORES) project. These regions will accommodate multiple modes of transportation and many types of infrastructure, according to the flcities.com website of the Florida League of Cities. It also said the enacted legislation provides increased funding for the Small County Road Assistance Program, the Small County Outreach Program and the Transportation Disadvantaged Trust Fund, all of which are meant to assists these rural counties southwest, west and northwest of Lake Okeechobee, which depend heavily on the money the state provides for regional transportation.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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