FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2016
Sunshine Citizens Statement
Regarding the approval of including Tampa Bay Express, Line items 33 and 34 – Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP)
Tampa, Fla.- June 23, 2016 – Today, Sunshine Citizens released the following statement:
“In response to the approval and inclusion of Line items 33 and 34, Tampa Bay Express project at the June 22, 2016 Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization Board Meeting, Sunshine Citizens remains committed to petitioning local transportation officials to remove the current iteration of Tampa Bay Express- both starter project and master plan – from the Transportation Improvement Plan.
For over a year, many dedicated citizens have grown a grassroots group into a powerful coalition of over 35 member organizations representing neighborhood associations, civic organizations, chambers of commerce, and political parties, and garnered the involvement of organizations at local, state and national levels.
Our advocacy for smart growth, multi modal transportation and transit oriented development instead of the boondoggle of the TBX project has engaged and energized many hundreds of citizens to be involved in our most critical local issue- transportation.
The MPO meeting attendance broke the record turnout at last year’s August 4, 2015 meeting. On June 22, over 500 people attended and 181 signed up to speak. For over seven hours, people provided public comment in opposition to TBX with the opposition outweighing its proponents by a two-to-one margin.
Though the MPO voted to keep TBX in the 2017-2021 TIP by a 12-4 vote, and this outcome is not the desired result – we have already won.
In less than a year, we have completely changed the conversation. The StopTBX Coalition has brought the focus back to where it ought to be: on our region’s need for mass transit- we need many connected systems, that do include roads, and that move more people and goods in less space and with far less environmental impact.
TBX is not a sound transportation policy nor a good project. It does NOT provide viable transit. TBX is outrageously expensive and won’t relieve congestion- it will only induce more single-occupant vehicle traffic congestion, air pollution and unsustainable sprawl. National transportation experts have taken note of the project and weighed in, in agreement with what the citizens of Hillsborough have contended about how TBX is very flawed. See this press release: National Transportation Expert Lambasts TBX
The public will not get to vote on TBX- it will not be on a ballot. Yet, the state insists they will spend a projected $6-9 billion dollars of our taxpayer dollars. The variable rate toll lanes on our freeways are unacceptable and introduce safety hazards that will expose this region to increased harm and potential litigation. TBX is a tax- we are taxed to build it, taxed to use it and will be taxed again when it fails to deliver on shaky at best promises.
We can do better.
Sunshine Citizens will continue to grow the coalition, and will fight for what this region needs- mobility choices and comprehensive transportation. We will lead the conversation that insists we invest in transit FIRST- so that we can raise our region’s profile, draw economic opportunity and innovative employers that pay good wages.
We will be announcing and rolling out a new initiative in the near future with this focus and that seeks to fulfill one of our key requests from the outset of this movement- that FDOT, our MPO, elected officials and our business leaders come to the table and have an open, honest and equitable discussion about how we reach consensus. As the last year has made abundantly clear- the taxpaying citizens are crucial stakeholders and must be included in this effort.
We welcome the opportunity to partner with business leaders to continue dialogue and work with us to deliver an alternate plan that presents the many forward-thinking transportation alternatives we could have with an investment with funds comparable to what is earmarked currently for TBX. We know there is tremendous opportunity to develop this consensus and partner with the business community on initiatives that feature transit oriented development and smart growth; this will best position this region for economic development, help us to attract and retain talent, and draw top, innovative firms to relocate to Tampa Bay. Where regions have committed to transit, they have seen immediate private sector investment and positive economic development in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars – prior to any system construction. We should and can achieve these same results.
We thank the elected officials who have listened to our input and studied the extensive data, information and questions surrounding the project.
We would like to acknowledge and thank the following officials for voting with the public and seeing that TBX is not in their best interest:
Les Miller, Chairman of the MPO Board and Hillsborough County Commissioner, took a public stand and required FDOT to meet certain conditions which they did not. He honored his promise and made a motion to remove TBX from the TIP.
Lisa Montelione, City of Tampa City Council and Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County Commission, also stood with the people to remove TBX from the TIP- along with Guido Maniscalco, City of Tampa City Council- who was the first elected official and MPO board member to stand with the people and has been supporting his constituents since the beginning.
Sunshine Citizens remains committed to education, outreach and organization of the residents of the city, county and region who have already stated they prioritize a commitment to planning, funding and development that focuses on: building safe, walkable complete streets, addresses and fixes existing infrastructure issues, and commits to multi modal transportation to increase choices beyond single occupancy vehicle travel. We would like to see the multi-billion dollar investment TBX represents instead be invested in many other projects with far greater potential and return on investment outcomes.
In conjunction with the StopTBX coalition of neighborhood associations, business owners, residents and related advocacy groups, Sunshine Citizens will continue to actively advocate for our vision of better choices, smarter growth and positive economic development for our area.
We look forward to ongoing dialogue and cooperation from our transportation planning authorities as to how we can work together to accomplish these goals.”
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.
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: https://twitter.com/suncitizens @SunCitizens