Business community urges leaders to approve Tampa Bay Express
TAMPA — Members of the business community issued a new statement Tuesday urging local officials to vote in favor of Tampa Bay Express, a $6 billion overhaul of the area’s interstates.
The group issued its first letter of support more than a month ago when 20 prominent businesses had signed on in support. That number swelled Tuesday when an additional 60 individuals signed on, including Barney Barnett of Publix Super Markets, Bryan Glazer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom James of Raymond James Financial, Liz Smith of Bloomin’ Brands and Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The letter urges members of Hillsborough’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group comprised of local politicians and prominent leaders in the community, to vote in favor of TBX at a June 22 meeting.
“Those of us who have signed this letter are highly concerned when we hear that some of you are prepared to prematurely reject TBX,” said the letter, sent to all 16 MPO members along with the state and district secretaries for the Florida Department of Transportation.
“Are you really prepared to turn away $3.3 billion in state and federal funds, and send them instead to Orlando, Jacksonville or South Florida? Are you prepared to send a message far and wide that Tampa Bay isn't interested in fixing its dysfunctional interchanges, adding capacity or easing congestion on its highways?”
Citizens who oppose the project say it disproportionately affects minorities and Tampa’s urban neighborhoods. Individuals would also prefer to see transit plans put into action first before pursuing an expansive road project.
The MPO will vote on June 22 whether to keep the project in its yearly Transportation Improvement Plan.
If a majority of MPO members vote yes, FDOT will start construction next year.
But if the MPO decides to remove TBX from its priorities, that state money is likely to go somewhere else in Florida, FDOT officials said, such as to Orlando or Jacksonville for projects similar to TBX.