Coastal Connector

The CEP appreciates the efforts of the Florida Department of Transportation to ensure safe, viable, and efficient transportation corridors for our state. We have discussed the Coastal Connector with the Department, state and local officials, the equine community, and our business community. As a result, the Board requests the Department abandon the proposed Coastal Connector routes but continue to work with all of these partners.

The above statement is the CEP’s official stance on the proposed routes for the Coastal Connector. Over the last few weeks, several of our partners and community members have asked us our position on this issue. While we were able to provide commentary and background information, we could not take an official stance until it had gone all the way through our process for issues which ends with approval by the Board of Directors of a position. Because we work with a volunteer Board composed of 30+ executives, this process usually takes 6-8 weeks.

Our advocacy efforts in recent years have mostly focused on local issues (i.e. transportation impact fees, sales tax, etc.) in which our Board members are already familiar and we have been engaged for several months before an official position is needed. The timing has worked well. However, on this issue we could not officially take a position until the end of May and thus was pushing our process.

While the CEP could not take an official position until then, it does not mean that leadership was not actively engaged directly with those who make and influence these decisions. We reached out directly to our contacts in Tallahassee and raised concerns with the state on the proposed routes and their impact. We maintained regular communication directly with FDOT, the Governor’s Office, and the leading candidates for Governor as well as the other Cabinet offices on the issue. Perhaps most importantly, we met with many of the businesses impacted by these proposals and helped them formulate their response. It was very satisfying to see the CEP’s Equine Economic Impact Study quoted numerous times throughout the discussions on the routes.

While the routes were unacceptable, I do not believe FDOT or any other group was intentionally attacking the equine industry. Road projects are all long-term efforts which involve countless meetings to plan, evaluate, gather input, re-plan, re-evaluate, and gather more input. This process started with lines across a map. The process works because the Department now knows how not to redraw the lines. There will inevitably be many more proposals and many more meetings. And I know from experience with multiple other major road projects, that a 25-year time horizon is probably more like 30 or 40.

The CEP addressed this issue in the way we work best—quietly working with key stakeholders and decision-makers to understand the economic challenges. However, as we continue to develop as an organization and as we grow our advocacy team (we have added a second team member to Business Advocacy starting 1 June) we will need to re-evaluate this issue structure to ensure we are best serving our partners and the business community.