The Problem: Tens of Millions of Dollars of federal money from a stimulus bill from last year are being used to revive a once-dead, ecologically-devastating, and widely-unpopular project known as the I-95 Interchange/Pioneer Trail project, located in east central Florida next to New Smyrna Beach. If built, this project will directly destroy: 1) scores of wetlands directly and many more indirectly, 2) habitat for endangered species, 3) an area already designated as “A-listed” for future conservation land acquisition, and 4) a watershed (Spruce Creek) already severely impaired and over-developed, likely violating several federal laws, including scrub jay and manatee protection. It will also cut off the only animal corridor to the Spruce Creek Preserve to the northeast, as all other land connections have already been built out. Transportation experts have also said this interchange is unneeded and will not improve traffic, and the money can rightfully be used elsewhere.
The Urgency: In February, the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) received permit applications from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for this dreaded I-95 Interchange project. We believe that they could receive approval as soon as a few weeks, and begin clearing wetlands in a few months. We also believe that the FDOT is using federal money they received in direct violation of Biden-administration policy and executive orders, including ones demanding projects not contribute to significant ecological damage and instead consider environmental justice and better alternatives.
The Ask: Ultimately, we request that all agencies (DOT, FDEP, FHWA, EPA, SJRWMD, etc.) deny permits needed for this project to proceed, and strip all federal funding for it (jurisdiction which they have as the project affects a federal highway near navigable waters). This will not only protect this sensitive ecological basin and the quality of life of people living there, but also limit future harm as nearby development sprawl will be less likely without the improvident interchange access.