Recently, the FDOT's task force on the proposed Southwest Central Connector met in LaBelle. This is one of the three toll roads fast-tracked by the Legislature, and it would serve nine counties: Highlands, Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades, Deso!o, Hardee and Polk.

Some of the Task Force members seem to think that roads equal economic growth. For ordinary roads this might be true if lots on a new road are sold and built on. Freeways are different. On a freeway, local growth happens mainly at interchanges. Otherwise, being close to a freeway just means noise.

One Task Force member asked how many interchanges there would be. A DOT engineer replied that no one knows, it hasn't been decided. A town could be in favor of the new toll freeway and then find out that they aren't important enough to get an interchange.

The public hearings look like a sham. The Task Force members had a chance to question seven panelists in LaBelle. One of the panelists is a PhD economist with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. A Task Force member asked how much the project will cost. The economist said that the cost can't be calculated because the route hasn't been selected.

Legislature has fast-tracked this toll freeway and two others, yet no one has any idea about the cost. The Legislature didn't set a maximum cost for the project.

It's a strange way of proceeding. As a teenager I went to a hearing on building a bridge across the intracoastal waterway. The engineers laid out Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C and had cost estimates for each one. There was no Plan A or Plan B at LaBelle, just "we don't know." The Legislature should junk the whole idea.

Dale L. Gillis