UPDATE 6/23/16: TBX passed in a 12-4 vote early Thursday morning by the Hillsborough MPO. On June 22, 180 Tampa residents and business owners gathered at 601 East Kennedy Boulevard to make their final appeals for and against the proposed 91 miles of express toll lanes. Public comments went until 1am. The statements implored that the MPO either reject the plan for fear of tearing up Tampa's history, or appove the TBX project to help secure state and federal funds and reduce daily traffic congestion on I-4, I-75 and I-275.
Several amendments were made to the project, which request frequent updates/reports made regarding the project, its design and progress to the MPO. TBX will create roughly 7,000 construction jobs and hopefully attract major businesses to the Tampa area. To complete the project, the city will need to tear up 130 homes in Ybor and Seminole Heights.
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TBX was met with much controversy and opposition when it was introduced. Local voices against the project, which would widen interstates by adding express toll lanes, have grown in numbers over the past few months. The Tampa City Council has already voted against the project twice. In a TBBJ poll, 59% of voters do not support TBX. In theory, TBX would help decrease traffic congestion. The planned 8 toll lanes would span 90 miles covering parts of I-275, I-4 and I-75.
Those who oppose the expressway state that this project would tear down resident's homes and historic buildings. Non-profit organization 1,000 Friends of Florida penned an open letter to the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization urging officials to reject TBX.
"Data consistently show that expanding freeways does not lead to less traffic," explains 1000 Friends Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins. "While this outcome is counter-intuitive, when we expand highways, drivers make more frequent trips, drivers choose longer routes and households and businesses move to more distant locations. As a result, expanding highways actually increases traffic."
The group United Residents for Better Neighborhoods (URBN Tampa) has also voiced their disapproval of the program. In a letter addressed to the MPO, URBN echoed concerns about the destruction of local neighorhoods and the precedent it would set for development in the future. They also provided a few alternatives to the TBX project. "As an alternative to TBX, we propose FDOT spend a fraction of the final build out costs of TBX to build a light rail system in Tampa. Specifically, a light rail line that extends from Tampa International Airport through Downtown Tampa to USF and also a line extending down to MacDill Air Force Base. This light rail would be built on the city street grid, built for people and not cars."
1,000 Friends' President Ryan Smart added, "widening freeways through the V. M. Ybor, Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights neighborhoods will harm these existing communities. On the other hand, extending express lanes towards Pasco County and into Polk County will spur the suburban sprawl that consumes rural land and increases the cost of providing services."
A collection of 60 Tampa Bay business leaders signed a letter addressed to the Hillsborough MPO in favor of TBX. Leaders in favor of the project include Jeff Vinik, Bryan Glazer and Tom James. The leaders express concern that members of the MPO are prepared to prematurely reject TBX without seeing it fully fleshed out. TBX is speculated to cost a little over $6 billion dollars to complete.
The Hillsborough MPO will meet Wednesday, June 22, to decide whether or not to keep the project in its Transportation Improvement plan. If approved, construction on the interstates would begin within the year. If the MPO were to reject the plan, the state and federal funds amounting to $3.3 billion dollars would go to another city such as Orlando or Jacksonville.