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National transportation expert lambasts TBX

National transportation expert lambasts TBX
MPO to meet and decide whether to keep controversial project in short term plan

Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2016 – Gabe Klein last spoke out against the Tampa Bay Express project on January 29, 2016, when speaking to the Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay chapter he called TBX the “worst project” he has seen in his years of traveling the country and said the plan to add express toll lanes to area interstates are nationally regarded as a “boondoggle.”

Klein, the author of “Start Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun,” was quoted by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as stating, “It’s staggering, actually…”Places like Tampa can be successful, but you’ve gotta spend your money on something other than a freeway.” (1)

In advance of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) board meeting to be held June 22, 2016 at 6 p.m., Klein was again asked to respond to his thoughts about the project.

“The combination of faulty data combined with a history of overstatement for toll road performance, admitted lack of financial analysis by the state, bulldozing of homes and businesses ala 1950’s urban renewal (disproportionately affecting minorities according to a civil rights lawsuit filed with the federal government), and blatant political payback by The Governor to the road building industry – this is a staggeringly irresponsible project in my opinion,” said Klein. “I thought the days of these “stimulus” projects that destroy value in cities was drawing to a close. FDOT, Governor Scott, and the business interests that stand to gain from this $9.3 billion total expenditure are proving that irresponsible fiscal policy are alive and well in America. There is a difference between “spending” and “investing” in Tampa-St Petersburg’s future.”

In the months since Klein’s comments to development and real estate professionals were reported on, the grassroots movement Sunshine Citizens, part of the Stop TBX Coalition, has continued to mount major opposition to the TBX project. The group has grown from a handful of neighborhood associations to encompass over 35 member organizations that span from churches and Statewide non-profits such as the Pastors on Patrol, Sierra Club and 1000 Friends of Florida, to political parties as diverse as the Libertarian Party of Hillsborough to the Green Party of Hillsborough. Now, with continued exposure of flawed data, traffic projections and cost/benefit analysis, the attention on TBX has broadened to national attention.

The TBX project is slated to cost about $3-6 billion. Variable rate toll lanes would be added to I-275 and Interstate 4, beginning at Bearss Avenue and extending to Pinellas County in the west and out to Plant City in the east.

TBX faces a crucial vote to be included or removed from the MPO’s short term transportation improvement program. The board’s members will decide whether to include TBX in the TIP, or remove it. If removed, it will not likely receive funding to proceed.

“What does it say about FDOT and this project when nationally recognized experts on transportation and growing entrepreneurial ecosystems like Gabe Klein can so easily point out how flawed TBX is?” said Michelle Cookson, of Sunshine Citizens. “The citizens of the Tampa Bay region know TBX is a sham- a 20-year-old plan dusted off, just to stick variable rate toll lanes on our interstates. It will not provide for viable transit and multi modal transportation that the region desperately needs in order to compete versus other metropolitan areas. We need to reject TBX and are moving the conversation to where it should have been all along – on a comprehensive, multi modal transportation plan that will drive private sector investment, transit oriented development and elevate the region- to draw top employers, opportunities and economic prosperity.”

In the past year, due to efforts by the StopTBX Coalition, increasing media attention has been placed on examining the TBX project. Findings that have been revealed include:

*TBX disproportionately impacts minority and low-income communities (2)
* Most residents of the city and throughout the county won’t have access to the variable rate toll lanes. The lanes planned for I-275 skip over the majority of Central Tampa and the people who live there.(1)
*Tolls could rise up to $2 for a single mile during rush hour, according to an estimate in FDOT’s master plan. At that rate, it would cost $15 to travel 7½ miles from Bearss Avenue to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, resulting in a $30 daily commute expense.
*TBX is the costliest public works project in Tampa Bay history
*TBX is based on a 20-year-old plan- mounting evidence shows that projections used to justify highway widening projects are grossly over estimated and incorrect (3)
* TBX does not provide for feasible transit that serves more people efficiently and is less environmentally impactful.
* Additionally, TBX will cause the loss of historic homes, churches, businesses, parks and green space with massive widening and expansion of I-275, I-4 and the Downtown Interchange.

For more information, see the attached fact sheet, 5 Reasons to Stop TBX, and What is TBX overviews attached in your media packet.

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization board meets this evening to vote on the current fiscal year TIP. The meeting will be at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, at 6 p.m. The public may speak for 3 minutes each, during the public comments portion of the agenda.

About the StopTBX Coalition
The StopTBX Coalition has successfully and rapidly grown. Drawing interest, support and media attention from all over the Tampa Bay area, the coalition is made up of neighborhood associations, business owners, residents and advocacy groups. The group has organized many actions in direct response to and opposition of the FDOT’s Tampa Bay Express project (TBX), which will drastically widen I-275 and I-4, decimate the Tampa urban core and substantially harm efforts for multi modal transportation and economic growth in Tampa Bay. Please see the attached list of coalition members.

 About Sunshine Citizens
Sunshine Citizens is a non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group focused on smarter growth and transit solutions. We are actively building coalitions of like-minded groups, citizens and local leaders in Tampa Bay who share our vision for better transportation, smarter growth and positive economic development for our area.
Twitter: @SunCitizens

About Gabe Klein
Gabe Klein is an entrepreneur, author, investor and former government official. Klein has served as Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and as Director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT). Prior, to that Klein was an Executive with Boston-based Zipcar. He is the author of Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun

Sources cited:
4- Highway Boondoggles Report statement:

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