Extension of Florida Turnpike will have ‘profound impact’ on Sumter County

A 40-mile westward extension of the Florida Turnpike, slated for completion in about a decade, will profoundly affect Sumter County.

County Administrator Bradley Arnold told commissioners this week that the county’s role in the extension is pivotal with Wildwood as the current end of the turnpike.

“It’s almost impossible for that turnpike extension not to have an impact on Sumter County,” he said.

Arnold said he recently attended a Northern Turnpike task force meeting, where environmental effects were discussed. He said the exact route has not been determined.

The northern extension is part of an ambitious plan for more than 300 miles of new turnpike roads endorsed this year by the state legislature. The northern extension would connect to the Suncoast Parkway, which would be extended 150 miles north to the Georgia border. A new turnpike also is planned in southwest Florida from Polk County to Collier County.

Task forces for each project are in the initial phase. The groups are expected to issue final reports in a year, when official planning would start. Construction of all three projects is scheduled to begin in 2022, with completion by 2030.

Projects will be financed by the sale of revenue bonds, the State Transportation Trust Fund and loans from the Florida Department of Transportation Financing Corporation. An estimated $100 million a year will be needed, according to an internet description of the plan.

A goal of the turnpike expansion is to boost economic development in rural Florida counties, but some officials of those counties were skeptical at a recent task force meeting. The northern extension also would divert some traffic from congested Interstate 75 and aid hurricane evacuation. Broadband internet service and RV sewer hook-ups would be provided along the routes.

A turnpike extension has been rejected several times since 1999, when a proposed 49-mile, $500-million extension was scrapped after local governments opposed it.

The latest effort has been dubbed M-CORES, which stands for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.