County passes 25 year transportation plan for 2035.

12/10/09 Joshua Lee Holton
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After several years of planning, the Hillborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a $12 billion long-range transportation plan yesterday. The 25-year plan includes highway, transit, and pedestrian improvements county-wide, and passed unanimously. Some South Hillsborough residents are concerned that they didn’t get equal attention for their transportation needs.

With concerns about curbing greenhouse gas emissions and pedestrian deaths in Tampa, The Metropolitan Planning Commission, or MPO, set out to fix some of Hillsborough County’s transportation needs. The 2035 plan gives about $96 million to funding trails and bike lanes. Alan Snel, the director of South West Florida Bicycle United Dealers, was pleased with some of the plan’s funded bike lanes, but says that bike infrastructure funding does not go far enough.

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe also said that he was in favor of better bike lanes, despite the lack of available funding for South Hillsborough County.

Mariela Smith attended the meeting in favor of connecting Ruskin and Sun City Center with greenways and bikeways. Her proposal was considered as a needed project, but received no funding.

MPO staffer Gena Torres responded to Smith’s concerns, and said that non-highway road projects will include bike lanes, and road resurfacing could be a means to add bike lanes. But Torres said the bike route in South Hillsborough didn’t meet the criteria for funding.

City Councilmember John Dingfelder, who also serves on the board of the MPO, agreed that South Hillsborough residents should receive equal consideration for funding.

Dingfelder said that the MPO would reconsider the proposal in the future.

County Commissioner and MPO board member Kevin Beckner said that improving the current bus system will be essential to connecting people with the proposed rail systems.

Although the transportation plan for 2035 passed in a unanimous vote on Wednesday, it is still subject to change. Beckner said citizens can still propose amendments to the MPO plan.

Funding could be increased for local rail and transit proposals if the penny sales tax passes on the ballot next November. Without that additional funding, the state won’t have adequate funding available for implementing rail options.

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