The MPO’s annual public hearing to establish funding priorities for the next five years of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) drew a record crowd on Tuesday evening, August 4. More than 360 residents and business representatives attended in person, with another 65 attending via GoToMeeting, to weigh in on a Tampa Bay Express (TBX) being added to the priority list.
TBX is a $3 billion investment in the region’s transportation infrastructure with 42 miles of interstate improvements including replacement of the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge and two major interchanges in Downtown and Westshore, explained FDOT’s Development Director Debbie Hunt. “TBX connects four of the major business districts in our region – the USF Innovation District, Downtown Tampa, Westshore, and Gateway in Pinellas County, supporting economic growth,” she added. The proposed express lanes generally will be built in the medians of I-275, I-4, and I-75, and tolls will vary by time of day to manage demand and congestion. FDOT is conducting a study of potential toll revenues, to compare with costs of construction, road maintenance, and potential express bus routes.
Citizen voices heard: TBX to include community benefits
Since I-275 was first constructed, our urban neighborhoods have experienced much revitalization… Progress that many citizens feel could be jeopardized by TBX. For more than two hours, people from ages 11 to 80+ spoke from the heart about what they want for the future of their neighborhoods, historic districts, and the city. Many millennials asked “to drive the train” into the future with alternative transportation modes like light rail, and more, safer walking and biking facilities.
MPO Chair, Commissioner Lesley “Les” Miller could relate. “I was born in Tampa on 18th Avenue… When the interstates came through in the 1960s, there were no public hearings; people couldn’t come down and talk. That interstate came down right in front of my wife’s mother’s home,” said Commissioner Miller. “So I understand the anxiety the Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights communities are feeling today, because I know what went through that neighborhood when I was growing up. I also know how important this project is for the future of our region, and to economic development and job creation, and to access our ports and airports.”
Hillsborough County is expected to grow by about half a million new residents and jobs by 2040, with traffic through the already-congested Downtown Interchange nearly doubling. The MPO Chair expressed the need to “balance the revitalization of our communities and future opportunities to create jobs, foster tourism, and grow as a region.” Having passed the gavel, he moved to approve the priority list, including TBX, with conditions for the Florida Department of Transportation as follows:
Work with this community.
- Our community representatives and FDOT must come together to enhance the community through this project.
Reevaluate the 20-year-old study.
As part of the reevaluation, FDOT will consider community impact and include robust outreach with respect to the following:
- Significant social and physical changes in the project area
- Changes to impact caused by the project
- Anticipated population and employment growth
- Land use and comprehensive plans
- And most importantly, the public, affected communities, and community commitments
Redesign Florida Avenue and Tampa Street.
- Work with the City of Tampa to provide more safe pedestrian, bicycle, and transit opportunities.
“To turn the challenges that come with growth into opportunities for a thriving future, we need many types of transportation choices tied to smart land use planning,” said Beth Alden, MPO Executive Director. “We are listening. The citizens have a voice and have been actively involved not only at this public hearing, but at meetings and committees for months,” said Ms. Alden. “We look forward to working with the citizens, FDOT, and other planning agencies to make this project a win-win for our community and the entire region.”
The MPO voted to support economic growth by balancing regional mobility needs with local neighborhood interests by a vote of 14-1. FDOT will share their progress with the MPO Board in November 2015 and in May 2016. FDOT’s tentative work program for FY 2017-21 will be reviewed in November.
Public meetings to adopt the 2016/17 – 2020/21 Transportation Improvement Program will be held in May and June of 2016.
Learn more about the TIP program, including funding priorities for walking and bicycling.