Today, Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet voted to overturn a judge’s ruling, paving the way for a new expressway that will cut through Florida’s Everglades.
Proposed as a solution for traffic congestion, Judge Suzanne Van Wyk previously found the proposal was out of compliance with Miami-Dade County’s comprehensive plan, posing a threat to sensitive Everglades wetlands and a major drinking water source for area residents. In total, the tollway is expected to shave a meager 6 minutes off the average commute time for local motorists once complete — a benefit that seems far outweighed by the potential to do great harm to state and federal lands acquired specifically for Everglades restoration.
Friends of the Everglades, which supported the legal case against the SR 836 extension, is deeply opposed to today’s decision by the Florida Cabinet and stands in support of Tropical Audubon’s decision to challenge the outcome.
Attorney Paul Schwiep, of the Coffey Burlington firm in Coconut Grove, representing Tropical Audubon and the other Petitioners, said: “Today’s ruling rejects the findings of a judge, who after a ten-day trial found that this $1 billion dollar boondoggle would provide no more than six minutes total savings on commutes from West Kendall to downtown. If built, the tollway will double traffic on SR-836 and make life miserable for commuters who use SR-836. Meanwhile, the tollway jeopardizes Everglades restoration, imperils the West Wellfield, destroys hundreds of acres of farmland, will cost over $1 billion dollars, all for six minutes. We will appeal.”
Tropical Audubon Society Executive Director Paola Ferreira said, ““Because the Governor has been such an outspoken champion of Everglades Restoration, the ruling really came as a big surprise. This reckless decision is inconsistent with Miami-Dade County’s planning laws, and the funding, time, and significant efforts invested in Everglades Restoration by the Federal Government, the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County. Putting the county’s water security on the line is also careless.”
Resident Michelle Garcia, who lives in the area near the proposed new toll road, noted: “It is important to alleviate traffic for West Kendall residents, but the data does not support that this 14-mile tollway would accomplish that goal. We need 21st-century transit options! All this road would do for anyone who lives close to it is increase traffic, noise and congestion near to our homes. I’d like to see our leaders pivot, focus on real solutions to traffic in my area and make decisions based on science for the benefit of all the residents of Miami-Dade County. The $1 billion dollars that would have been spent on this road should be spent on modern, mass transit.”
Laura Reynolds representing the Hold the Line Coalition said: “We are proud to be part of the team that has worked to protect the public interest and the Everglades, but we are disappointed that the State did not exhibit more Everglades leadership today. The Governor had the opportunity to stand up to protect the State, Federal and Local investments in conservation land purchases for Everglades Restoration. He failed to do that, and instead has kicked the can down the road, knowing the proposal is flawed. Just funding projects is not enough — we also need to protect our 35-year investment and that means enforcing the law, funding environmental departments, empowering them to stand by the science and in this case upholding the judge’s ruling.”