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The Villages

Sumter County commissioners fighting plan to extend Florida Turnpike

Sumter County commissioners plan to lobby local and state leaders to reject a plan to extend the Florida Turnpike.

County Administrator Bradley Arnold said he would prepare a letter to local legislators expressing opposition. He said environmental groups also are against it.

A state task force released a report this month on plans to extend the turnpike intro Citrus County, where it would connect with the Suncoast Parkway, which would extend 150 miles to the Georgia border. Another task force issued a report on that project and a third task force released a report on a similar project in southwest Florida.

Commissioner Doug Gilpin, who represents an area of western Sumter County that includes Lake Panasoffkee, said area residents oppose the turnpike.

“There’s no one in District 2 that I can find who wants a turnpike,” he told other commissioners Tuesday night. “FDOT is bound and determined for whatever reason they want to connect these corridors.”

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 task force report did not make an unqualified endorsement of a turnpike extension. Instead, it said the state first should maximize the use of existing corridors before building new highways. The report also included a “no build” option.

But undoing FDOT plans for the corridors could be difficult because it would require a change in state law, Arnold said.

Two task forces have studied the plans with Sumter County represented by Arnold and Commissioner Garry Breeden.

Earlier this year, Gilpin said a benefit of a turnpike extension could be a municipal sewer system for the Lake Panasoffkee area. He noted that water and sewer runoff contributes to weed infestation in the lake.

Besides the proposed 40-mile turnpike extension, project goals also include connecting rural communities, creating jobs, conserving wildlife and addressing water and sewer issues.

Last year, the legislature approved the three projects that involve more than 300 miles of new turnpike roads.

The initiative, known as the M-CORES project, calls for completion of the roads by 2030.

Estimated to cost $100 million a year, construction would be funded by the sale of revenue bonds, the State Transportation Trust Fund and loans from the Florida Department of Transportation Financing Corporation.

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