M-CORES: An Overview

Saving Special Places • Building Better Communities

Impacting Rural Lands

The Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance Program, or M-CORES, was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 17, 2019. M-CORES authorizes the design and construction of three new tolled road corridors through rural Florida:

Suncoast Connector extending from Jefferson County to Citrus County

Northern Turnpike Connector extending from the Suncoast Connector south to the Florida Turnpike northwest

Southwest-Central Florida Connector extending from Polk County to Collier County; a previous highway planned for the route was called the Heartland Parkway

M-CORES Map

1000 Friends of Florida strongly opposed the M-CORES legislation because of its impacts on vast tracts of some of Florida’s last remaining undeveloped lands which include vulnerable springsheds and wetlands, wildlife corridors that sustain panther and other endangered species, contiguous corridors of agricultural and timber lands essential to regional economies, and other significant environmental and cultural resources. Additionally, M-CORES promotes unneeded roads through rural areas in a manner that will stimulate sprawling development and diverts significant funding from addressing existing transportation problems in urbanized areas. With the passage of M-CORES legislation, however, these tolled corridors are on a fast track to becoming a reality.

In 2014, 1000 Friends partnered with other conservation organizations and then FDOT staff, including then Secretary Prasad, to develop a series of conservation and evaluation principles that can provide useful guidance for the M-CORES process. There are opportunities for citizens and local governments to help shape the outcome. This site will be updated regularly with more information on how you can participate as it becomes available.

Background

M-CORES will divert more than $100 million per year from the state General Revenue Fund for planning, design and initial construction of the three corridors, which are “tolled facilities and approved turnpike projects that are part of the turnpike system and are considered as Strategic Intermodal System facilities.” The bill also authorizes the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT or “the department”) to borrow billions of additional dollars from turnpike revenue bonds, public private partnerships and myriad other sources to complete construction.

The stated objective is to “advance the construction of regional corridors that are intended to accommodate multiple modes of transportation and multiple types of infrastructure.” Goals outlined in the legislation include to address hurricane evacuation, congestion mitigation, trade and logistics, broadband, water and sewer connectivity, energy distribution, autonomous and other vehicle technology, mobility as a service, availability of trained workforce, protection or enhancement of wildlife corridors or environmentally sensitive areas, and protection or enhancement of primary springs protection zones and farmland preservation areas designated within local comprehensive plans.

See FDOT’s M-CORES Website

See 2019’s SB 7068 authorizing M-CORES

See the Defenders of Wildlife GIS map identifying natural and other resources in the M-CORES counties

Timeline

July 1, 2019

The “M-CORES” Act takes effect

August 1, 2019

The Secretary of FDOT shall appoint the members of the three corridor task forces

October 1, 2020

Each task force shall submit its final report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives

December 31, 2022

To the maximum extent feasible, construction of the projects shall start no later than this date

December 31, 2023

Each affected local government with an interchange within its jurisdiction shall review the applicable task force report to determine whether its local comprehensive plan should be amended “to provide appropriate land uses and natural resources protections”

July 1, 2030

The corridors shall be open to traffic no later than this date

M-CORES: Local Comprehensive

Webinars

M-CORES (The Heartland and Suncoast Expressways): Policy and Planning Implications for Florida’s Future

SB 7068 was passed during the 2019 Legislative Session and signed into law.  It created M-CORES, or the “multi-use corridors of regional economic significance program” to be implemented by the Florida Department of Transportation. Conducted prior to the passage of the legislation, this webinar focuses on SB 7068’s implications for state transportation policy, regional planning, and land and habitat conservation.