Tampa City Council hears more about FDOT’s “reset”on TBX
January 19, 2017
Transit enthusiasts aren’t buying the Florida Department of Transportation’s attempt at community inclusion after a meeting unveiling four highway expansion concepts this week.
Social media threads in pro-transit groups show activists aren’t enthused by FDOT’s proclaimed commitment to making the community a part of the conversation.
“This seems to be all lip service and will continue to be until we elect officials that are for the people and for stronger communities,” wrote Facebook user Sam Gibbons in response to news of FDOT’s latest concepts.
The group Sunshine Citizens that was front and center in the fight against TBX is following the Tampa Bay Next process.
“We need to underscore to FDOT why we need to keep our neighborhoods intact AND have plenty of choices, like transit, to better and fairly connect … to not disrupt but complement our urban area,” the group posted ahead of Monday’s meeting where the new concepts were revealed.
FDOT spokeswoman Kristen Carson said the agency is funding transit studies and wants to incorporate transit into future plans, but ultimately another agency would be responsible for the transit component.
“We realize our solutions will be multi-modal and Tamp Bay Next is a conversation about all alternatives. There will be plenty of opportunities and additional concepts at future workshops and smaller group meetings. The Department will continue the conversations about finding real solutions, including transit, to our transportation challenges,” Carson said.
The local FDOT district has been steadily unveiling possible concepts for a less traffic-laden highway system through Tampa’s urban core. Early concepts showed a variety of options ranging from adding lanes and revamping on and off ramps, to creating fixed guideways for transit. One concept considered a “pie in the sky” proposal by many would level the highway north of downtown Tampa and instead created a street-level boulevard.
Two of the four latest concepts largely resemble plans under the canceled Tampa Bay Express plan, one that critics decried because it included tolled express lanes and land acquisitions that would raze portions of neighborhoods and shutter local businesses.
Under FDOT’s “reconstructed interchange with express lanes to the north,” the agency adds express lanes to the existing span of highway north of the downtown interchange – a near mirror image of what was proposed under TBX. The same plan with express lanes to the south rather than north is slightly smaller, but still requires significant land acquisition.
Hillsborough County Commission candidate Kimberly Overman also shared concerns about FDOT’s planning process.
“They are trying to figure out how to make the community swallow the fact that their approach to solving transportation problems is roads, not transit,” Overman said. She is running against incumbent Sandy Murman for the countywide District 7 seat currently held by Al Higginbotham.
Overman appreciates the agency’s attempts to educate the public and acknowledges FDOT has been more transparent than during the TBX process. But she doesn’t see the agency including transit in its transportation overhaul.
The Tampa Bay Next process is part of an ongoing study creating a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the span of highway to the east and west and north of downtown Tampa along Interstates 275 and 4.
The agency is likely to have a preferred plan targeted by late next year, but a final plan won’t be approved until early 2019. Overman said she and other activists will continue pushing for transit alternatives.
“Eventually millennials will stop coming to a place where they have to have two cars,” Overman said.