Possible merger of transportation organizations sparks debate in Hillsborough County

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The Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization board met Wednesday to discuss a controversial merger with the transportation agencies of Pinellas and Pasco Counties.

The transportation planning organizations serving Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties have until the end of the year to submit a report regarding the benefits and costs of merging. The report must be submitted to Governor DeSantis and state legislators by the end of the year.

These organizations make decisions on changes to roads and communities. This would create the largest Metropolitan Planning Organization in Florida.

Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Michael Owen supports the proposal.

“Listen, I was somebody that first when this was coming around, I said ‘well why should we as Hillsborough County, we’re the big dogs on the block, why should we become regional?’, but then the more I looked at it the more I get a good general understanding of what this means, as they stated the pros and cons for the state of Florida, for us to be #1 in the state of Florida when it comes to getting grants.”

However, opponents say Pasco and Pinellas will prioritize projects like building wide interstates to cut commute times to Tampa for their residents. They fear outsiders will be making decisions for Hillsborough County.

The Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization board plan to continue discussing the merger.

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