The already congested Howard Frankland Bridge could soon be losing a lane.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) wants to create an express lane on the bridge. To do this, they would add a toll on one of the existing lanes in each direction, leaving only three free lanes. Depending on the time of day, this toll could cost up to $6.00
This proposal is part of a highway expansion act called the Tampa Bay Express that would also add express lanes to I-75, I-275, and I-4. However, state officials told the Tampa Bay Times that the Howard Frankland Bridge is the only place drivers will lose a lane.
Many individuals who voted for the proposal are upset to hear that the plan would take away from existing lanes. They had believed that an additional lane would be built to accommodate the new express lane.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the FDOT's "ultimate" plan is to add new lanes for the tolls, but that won't happen until Hillsborough and Pinellas counties decide on a form of transit to cross the bay. So until then, it's pay up or sit in traffic.
Many transportation activists as well as other individuals are against the express lane and believe it will make congestion worse. Republican Senator Jack Latvala wrote a letter to the FDOT expressing his concern about the bridge.
"With the Howard Frankland Bridge reaching its end of serviceable years, now is not the time to take current lanes and collect tolls from my constituents who use the bridge to get to work and do not want to have their commute times increased," Latvala said.
The Florida Department of Transportation will be holding two public hearings regarding the changes to the Bridge on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, and Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, both slated to start at 5:30 p.m.