Hillsborough County to repave Bayshore Boulevard in time for RNC
Despite drastic spending cuts on road maintenance in recent years, Hillsborough County commissioners approved a plan Wednesday to spend $1.3 million to repave iconic Bayshore Boulevard before the Republican National Convention.
"Bayshore is our most historic, scenic road we have in all of Hillsborough County," said Sandy Murman, a Republican whose district includes the signature roadway along Hillsborough Bay. "This will be an economic development opportunity that we will probably never have again."
Murman noted that some 15,000 media members and representatives of many of the nation's most successful companies will be in town for the August convention. Most of them will ride along or see images of the roadway, stretches of which are in disrepair or just generally bumpy.
County Administrator Mike Merrill presented commissioners an option for repaving much of Bayshore east of Gandy Boulevard without having to delay other resurfacing projects. Commissioners will tap roughly $700,000 in reserves from gas taxes, exhausting an account used for road repaving. Another $600,000 will come from money earmarked for work along Boyette Road in eastern Hillsborough that didn't cost as much as projected.
Bayshore Boulevard, which is owned by the county, wasn't scheduled to be repaved until 2014. County Public Works Director John Lyons said the project won't be a simple cosmetic resurfacing. It will involve milling the existing asphalt before applying a new surface, which will last for years.
Lyons acknowledged that the county has not been spending as much on resurfacing, which extends the life of roadways, as is ideal. The county should be spending $12 million to $14 million on such work, but this year has a budget of about $6 million, he said.
The approval came despite strenuous objection by Democrat Les Miller. He noted that the Bayshore work will essentially leapfrog planned repaving projects for other roads in much greater need of repair, particularly in the poorer parts of central and eastern Tampa that he represents. That includes work scheduled along E Chelsea Street and 17th and 18th avenues.
"I totally object," Miller said. "I don't care if the (Democratic National Convention) was coming here, that's absolutely wrong."
The proposal passed 4-2 with commissioners Miller and Victor Crist, a Republican, voting in opposition. Republican Al Higginbotham was absent from the meeting.
Following the vote, Democrat Kevin Beckner asked the county administration to come up with a plan during budget preparations this summer to spend an equal or greater sum of money on roadway repairs in other areas, particularly poorer neighborhoods. His request passed 6-0.