Hillsborough commissioners are working on how to spend funds from the 2018 transportation tax
An initial plan for the $569 million pot of money dedicates the majority of the money toward county projects, while divvying money out to the municipalities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace.
The money gathered in 2018 from Hillsborough County's now-inactive transportation tax might finally go into improving local infrastructure for roads, sidewalks and more.
However, how the money is spent will ultimately be decided by the state legislature.
Hillsborough County commissioners discussed the transportation improvement opportunities available at a Wednesday workshop.
An initial plan for the $569 million dollar pot of money dedicates the majority toward county projects, while divvying money out to the municipalities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace.
The focus of the projects is on repaving roads and sidewalks, repairing bridges, road safety enhancements, and trail infrastructure.
In its first proposal, county officials broke down the spending in these pools:
- $130 million for repaving roads
- $40 million for sidewalk repairs
- $56 million for bridge repairs and improvements
- $124 million for safety and mobility enhancements
- $116 million for road capacity projects
- $57 million for community corridor safety enhancements
- $66 million for trail infrastructure
The overall amount of money for all of the projects proposed by the initial plan totaled $589 million, which is over the amount available from the surtax. But county officials said they could send that plan to the state, while expecting a smaller pot of money overall with which to work.
Board Chair Ken Hagan says his main goal with the money is funding projects that will be completed the fastest.
"I think that we should prioritize projects that are No. 1, shovel ready, that can have an immediate impact, and have the biggest impact on improving our residents quality of life," Hagan said.
Many of those projects stem from the county’s Capital Improvement Program, which has several unfunded projects waiting to break ground.
Commissioner Michael Owens said he’s focused on getting funding for Lithia Pinecrest Road.
“I am going to fight to make sure that Lithia Pinecrest Road gets widened with these funds, because these funds are there,” Owens said. “I understand that's a big chunk. It's close to $200 million … but I am going to do everything I can to see if I can get those funds directed that way.”
Owens, along with other commissioners, questioned prioritizing the trail systems in the county with the money, saying that there are more crucial needs across the county.
But County Commissioner Pat Kemp says that transportation option is just as important as the others.
"This is one of the most dangerous counties in the entire nation, bar none, for pedestrian and bicycle deaths,” Kemp said. “It's important that we add that in. Not to mention that on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, which has lacked a connection for decades now, 300,000 people a year use that trail."
Kemp also requested to allocate $20 million worth of funding for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority’s Operations and Maintenance Center.
Commissioner Joshua Wostal questioned how this process is being handled as the county suggests how the money is spent to the state, saying he doesn’t want to automatically have commissioners associated with the plan.
“It would be important to me that each specific commissioner’s interests are not highlighted as this being a group decision, because we're voting on illegally taxed dollars,” Wostal said. “So it would be very important to me that this not be a typical ‘hey, a majority of the board said this, and this is the will of the voters,’ This is a highly unusual, unprecedented action.”
The county commission can finalize a plan as soon as its Feb. 15 meeting, to suggest to the state legislature, which will have the final say where that money goes during this year's session.