A once-dead, ecologically-devastating, and wildly unpopular project known as the I-95 Interchange/Pioneer Trail project, located in east central Florida next to New Smyrna Beach, has been resuscitated, despite an outpouring of citizen objections 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 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 and a new draft acquisition has been posted. 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 specific requirements that any federal investment avoids significant ecological damage and instead considers climate impacts, promotes environmental justice and pursues sustainable alternatives.
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.