In addition to Florida Polytechnic University, many speculate that state Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, may see more of his dreams materialize in Polk County.
A road to nowhere being built in Polk County under the name of the “Future Corridor” is being allotted $18 million in a proposed transportation budget, with another $16.7 million for 2014 or 2015, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Alexander claims he has no ties to the project, but details in the project may prove otherwise.
In 2007, the project to fix up a portion of Heartland Parkway was abandoned because there was not enough traffic to justify building a toll road across the underdeveloped land in Central Florida. A year earlier, the Heartland Economic, Agricultural and Rural Task Force faxed a report proposing the project to a lawyer who drew the road while Alexander and former Gov. Jeb Bush were present. Yet when asked about recent updates on the project, Alexander told the Times he doesn’t “know anything about it.”
Even if Alexander was unaware of today’s project, he surely remembers the attempts in 2006 and 2007 to build the toll road. The Senate Budget Committee chairman claiming he is unaware of a transportation budget item also seems highly unlikely. While trying to feign distance from the project may work in Alexander’s favor, faking ignorance seems incriminating.
Alexander claims no ties to the rebirth of the project, yet the area includes Blue Head Ranch, owned by one of Alexander’s companies, Atlantic Blue. The company is planning to create 30,000 residential units and 11 million square feet of non-residential land in a 7,500-acre area of the ranch, according to the Times.
The toll portion of the road covers the area of the Heartland Parkway closest to the area of land designated to become the Florida Polytechnic University – something Alexander would undeniably be interested in.
Alexander seems to be anticipating the growth of both the university and the area of Lakeland. Developing the area would result in profits for Alexander and his company.
According to the Times, the parkway project echoes 20th-century highway building aiming to increase development in the area. Added transportation may help connect the land and increase interest in the area. Creating a university in Lakeland would do that too. But the area may still not be populated enough to pay for the toll road. If it doesn’t, the costs of the road will fall on taxpayers.
When the Florida budget has suffered a $1.4 billion shortfall, reserving money for dead-end, pork-barrel politic projects such as these should not hold preference over education and local road projects. If legislators are unsure whether they can create enough traffic in the toll road to pay for the costs, the project should not be such an expensive priority.
Alexander’s staged ignorance of the project is ridiculous and should be considered in the context of his recent claims. This would not be the first time Alexander has stretched the truth.