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Heartland Parkway Proposal Stalls
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By BILLY TOWNSEND The Tampa Tribune

Published: May 12, 2007

LAKELAND - Momentum toward creation of the $8 billion Heartland Parkway has ground to a halt, largely because of the change of Florida governors, said Rick Dantzler, spokesman for a group of landowners pushing for the highway.

"I don't think it's any secret that Gov. [Charlie] Crist is less enthusiastic than Gov. [Jeb] Bush was," Dantzler said this week. Crist has called the proposed highway a "road to nowhere." And many newspapers have editorialized against it.

Dantzler, a former state senator from Winter Haven, is the public face of the Heartland Economic, Agricultural and Rural Task Force. The task force is a nonprofit advocacy group made up primarily of major landowners from the Heartland region of Florida, which stretches from Polk County south to Collier County, between Lake Okeechobee and the coastal counties.

Members of the group have discussed creating a corridor of green space and tightly managed development around the 150-mile toll highway. The road's proposed route would link northeast Polk and Lakeland to the outskirts of Fort Myers.

Supporters of the road within the state's Turnpike Enterprise organization had hoped to secure money to study the road's proposed 40-mile half-loop through Polk County, which would stretch from south Lakeland to near the Polk-Osceola county border.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation's Bartow-based District 1, however, said there is no money for such a study.

Dantzler said he thinks state-level DOT managers could find money for the study. He said he sees no indication that is about to happen, though. It's not clear what such a study would cost.

So what's the next step for the task force and the other parkway backers?

"That's a good question," Dantzler said. "We're not certain what the next step will be."

Dantzler said he thinks advocates should focus on the Polk loop portion of the road. Dantzler calls it the "fish hook" because of its shape. The fish-hook route, which would tie into the massive proposed CSX intermodal center in Winter Haven, is where the growth pressure is, Dantzler said. Rough cost estimates for the fish hook have approached $2 billion.

Debate about the Heartland Parkway has tended to focus on the prospect of opening the rural counties south of Polk to greater development. Yet Dantzler acknowledged that although the region is "transitioning," significant growth pressures have not materialized.

"There's no great reason to build the road right now, but that's the point," he said. The task force wants to use "a 50-year time horizon" when looking at the future of the region, Dantzler said, maintaining that a well-managed corridor through the area could ensure it develops in a way that preserves its rural and agricultural quality of life.

The task force's advisory board and officers represent a bipartisan collection of business and government heavyweights in the area. The companies include, among others, A. Duda & Sons Inc., Lykes Bros. and Alico Inc.

Also represented is Atlantic Blue, a company run by state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. The company owns thousands of acres in the projected path of the road. Alexander was one of the parkway's early backers and helped bring Dantzler on board.

Reporter Billy Townsend can be reached at [email protected] or (863) 284-1409.


http://www.tbo.com/news/metro/MGB8GLRIL1F.html
 

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The expressway that is needed is from the Polk Pkwy bend to SR 60 East of Lake Wales. Then either extended to the Turnpike or just 4lane the remaining 2laned SR60. This idea was proposed at the same time the N to S route was proposed. SR60 is busy now and is going to get even more truck traffic after this CSX project is finished. This is a major EW corridor between TBay and the Palm Beach county/Treasure Coast area. That 2 lane drive on SR60 can be very frustrating at times and worse. I'm glad the road from Polk to Ft Myers is stalled. It's unneeded for a long, long time. I-4 to I-75 isn't that bad for those commuters. On the other hand the EW route is needed now. There is no more direct way to go from Tampa to WPB/Treasure Coast than SR60.
 

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FlaNatv, the route you describe was proposed as the East-West Expressway, back in 1992. It was defeated after the complaints of wealthy residents around the Cypress Gardens area and environmentalist with concerns about how an expressway would affect Bok Tower Gardens. Now 15 years later, that area has continued to sprawl and the right of way is probably three times as much now, as it was in the early 1990s.
 
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