The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has kicked off a study of an extension to the Florida Turnpike from Wildwood into Citrus County.
Two public meetings were held in early December as an early phase of the process. More public meetings are planned next year before the study concludes with a report to the governor and legislature in early 2023.
When the study is finished, FDOT could move into design, right-of-way acquisition and construction of the extension.
In Citrus County, the turnpike would connect with Suncoast Parkway, which would then extend 150 miles north to the Georgia border.
A year ago, Sumter County commissioners said they opposed a turnpike extension and planned to lobby state officials to reject the project.
Commissioner Doug Gilpin, who represents western Sumter County including Lake Panasoffkee, said then that no one in his district supports a turnpike extension. County Administrator Bradley Arnold said he would write a letter to local legislators expressing opposition.
Last year, a task force report on the plan did not make an unqualified endorsement of an extension and included a “no build” option.
A turnpike extension has been rejected several times since 1999, when a proposed 49-mile, $500-million extension was scrapped due to local government opposition.
Extension supporters say it would connect rural communities, create jobs, conserve wildlife and address water and sewer issues. It also would relieve traffic congestion, accommodate higher travel demand and improve hurricane evacuation.
FDOT also has launched a study of Interstate 75 in Sumter, Marion and Alachua counties. The study will evaluate short-term and long-term improvements that could improve safety and mobility.
The study will involve traffic engineering data and analysis of interchanges to identify problems and potential solutions. A public meeting on the study will be held early next year.
Traffic congestion has been a problem on I-75 especially between Wildwood and Ocala.