Tampa area express toll lanes approved by MPO

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization public meeting Photo by Samuel Johnson

Shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday morning, after hours of heated debate, the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 12-4 to move forward on the highly controversial $6 billion road project known as TBX. Voting against the project were Tampa City Council Members Guido Maniscalco and Lisa Montelione, Hillsborough County Commissioner and MPO Chairman Les Miller and County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

The chamber was at full capacity; a 50-50 blend of yes and no supporters. The overflow was seated downstairs in the four corners of the foyer. Opponents pointed to safety issues, ethnic disparity of those effected, congestion that won’t be alleviated, and a focus that should be on alternative modes of transportation. Lena Young Green lives in an area that will be directly impacted by TBX. She said there is evidence that minority communities are intentionally targeted

…as the easiest way in which to build these roads. Today we have the effect of them. Mr. Shirk (citizen speaking at meeting) talk about we are impacted by the air quality. We’re impacted by sickness; we’ve been impacted by social division. This is not ok.”

Those in favor, claim TBX will connect vital portions of the wider county, alleviate traffic jams and it is an alternative for mass transit right now. They also say it is essential for wooing business to the area. Ken Roberts invoked a Martin Luther King quote to sway the MPO to vote its conscious, vote for what is right and vote yes.

“…the project benefits everyone in the region and we need to realize that we’re all in this together. Move TBX forward and we continue to enjoy a growing economy. If not, (then) we will all go down with the ship; mired in an economy struggling and strangled by insufficient transportation facilities. Our children will ask; what were you thinking?”

There were others who had a more moderate tone, neither for or against. Taylor Ralph, a self proclaimed TBX maybe, said the Hillsborough area should be taking the Florida Department of Transportation to task.

They’re (FDoT) playing a game with our tax dollars. We call the shots. You call the shots. We develop the priorities. We talk to DoT and tell them what we do want. I think it’s very clear that people are not very wild about super-wide interstates that have toll express lanes.”

Many against the TBX yielded their speaking time to other TBX opponents but rarely was it done by those advocating for TBX. Maya Trotz, on the engineering faculty at the University of South Florida, is against the TBX. She needed an extra 3 minutes to explain why good, honest science matters.

The draft Master Plan for TBX uses outdated methods of transportation planning. It ignores forward thinking alternatives that employ context sensitive and sustainable design and demand management solutions. TBX omits well known impacts that The FDoT has unfairly kept from the public.”

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