Hillsborough commissioners vote to draft a transportation tax ordinance
The Hillsborough County Commission voted in favor of a 1% transportation surtax ordinance that will be drafted by the county attorney’s office and potentially land on the November ballot.
Hillsborough County has once again made a move to bolster public transportation and infrastructure.
The latest decision comes after the Florida Supreme Court struck down a Hillsborough County transportation sales tax that was passed with 57% of the vote back in 2018.
On March 23, the Hillsborough County Commission voted 6-1 in favor of a new 1% surtax intended to improve the overall quality of existing infrastructure, as well as fund new projects.
Vik Bhide, director of the mobility department for the city of Tampa, says the region is sorely in need of better public transportation.
“Transportation is kind of the Achilles’ heel of this region," Bhide said. "It's what's holding us back, because transportation improves quality of life, and transportation is critical to access to jobs.”
He added that the city is only going to continue growing, which further amplifies the need for improved public transportation.
“In the city of Tampa alone, over the next 20 years, we’re going to see an increase of 250,000 jobs,” Bhide said. “Only about 20% of those jobs will be Tampa residents.”
Lynda Remund, CEO of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, agrees.
“The one thing that we lack is some type of multimodal transportation system that goes east, west, north, south, and kind of connects everybody. Right now we have to rely on our roads, and that's not getting any better,” Remund said.
Bhide also said the surtax is needed because of the county’s inability to receive funding from the federal government via programs like “Build Back Better” due to a lack of local revenue.
“Unfortunately, a majority of this funding is competitive and requires matching funds, and we don’t have those matching funds either. So that’s a big reason we need to have local funds,” Bhide said.
If passed, 45% percent of the money collected would be allocated to the HART Bus program. The remainder would be distributed to a variety of different projects, including improvements to current infrastructure, which Bhide says is “crumbling.”
Bhide said other projects would target another “big need” — safety.
According to Bhide, Tampa is ranked among the top 10 least safe areas in the nation for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
Earlier this month, the city became the latest metropolitan area to sign onto the “Vision Zero” strategy, which aims to eliminate severe injuries and deaths on the road, while increasing mobility for everyone.