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Florida Matters: Express Toll Lanes Debate

Feb 9, 2016

What are the pros and cons of the Tampa Bay Express project, which includes adding express toll lanes on interstates around the Tampa Bay area?

This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 a.m.), we bring you both sides of the debate with Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) Executive Director Ray Chiaramonte, and Linda Saul-Sena with the group Stop TBX

Supporters of the plan say the express toll lanes will speed up commute times.

"We just need to have a basic interstate system of this time-period that works, and then that's it. And then we need to go on to transit in the future," Chiaramonte said. "But that interstate system has been neglected for a long time. We just need to catch up, get it done, and then move on."

Critics say express toll lanes won't speed up commutes, and they worry about the destruction of historic neighborhoods in Tampa. 

"In terms of getting people to where they want to go in a safer and more expeditious and environmentally friendly way, I think that we need an alternative to just more lanes," said Saul-Sena, who has served as chair of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, and on the Tampa City Council.

Over the next few weeks, the Florida Department of Transportation is holding community meetings on the project.

We asked our listeners to share their thoughts in a Twitter poll. The results are below:

Our listeners also emailed with their thoughts on express toll lanes:

James K. Morgan of Tampa writes, “Express toll lanes along I-275. I frankly cannot think of one point to recommend the building of these express lanes. But my chief complaint is construction related delays, which we have endured for five years. Now that we are just finishing Northbound I-275 between Dale Mabry and Armenia, we will get to face another round of years of construction? Almost daily I have to travel around the south side of the airport. Since the last tiny piece of the new roadway is still not ready, the delays all day long have been amazing. The entire Westshore area has been impacted as people search for alternative routes, and some of those alternatives, like Cypress Street, have been closed while the final touches are put on the construction. 

I cannot endure another five years of these delays while we rebuild this corridor again. If there is a move to build, it should be in direction of mass transit.”

Jim Hartnett of Tampa writes, “There is large list of reasons why TBX is a terrible idea, but to me it is about having transportation options.  Tampa Bay basically has no viable mass transit.  There are no other metropolitan areas in our size range, or larger, that have such limited mass transit options.  This has consequences by limiting how we can grow and it forces us to continue to grow by chewing up our greenspace with more sprawl.  This puts us in direct opposition to what people want which is more mobility, more walk-able communities and less dependence on automobiles.  TBX is not how we should be spending $6B to meet our transportation needs.  There are only so many transportation dollars to go around and we need a more balanced approach to transportation.”

Gerald Chassang of Tampa writes, “I do not understand why Hillsborough Avenue isn't considered to be utilized as a way to relieve  I-275/I-4 junction and downtown. 

I am sure a lot will have be done to make it feasible and friendly to the communities it crosses but it goes from the casino area off I-4, all the way to the Dunedin/Tarpon Springs area, passing through 275, the Tampa International  Airport's north side, Dale Mabry Highway, the Veterans Highway, Mc Mullen Booth Road, 19 and Alt 19. A model such as the one in place for the

Selmon Expressway and soon Gandy Boulevard will accommodate many commuters and relieve a lot of the traffic on 275 and could bring a lot relief to a busy Hillsborough Avenue, and beautification dollars to the neighborhood around It by promoting a less congested local commercial traffic.”