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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FDOT says TBX still on track, despite drop in land acquisitions



The Florida Department of Transportation is putting the brakes on buying up land around the Tampa downtown interchange, but the state said its plan to expand the highway is still going forward.

FDOT reduced the money budgeted for voluntary property acquisition downtown in fiscal year 2017 from nearly $25 million to about $500,000,  Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director Beth Alden told an MPO committee Tuesday morning.

Those opposed to Tampa Bay Express -- the state’s plan to widen the area's interstates and add toll lanes -- celebrated the news on social media. Tampa City Councilmember Lisa Montelione called it a “huge win.”

“The Community Redevelopment Agency had been pushing for the acquisition phase to be delayed until all the impact studies could be completed,” Montelione wrote on Facebook. “Thank you to our citizens and to my fellow board members for your perseverance.”

But Debbie Hunt, the director of transportation development for the local FDOT district, said “nothing about TBX has changed” and the project is still going forward as planned.

The money that was originally budgeted for the downtown interchange for 2017 will instead be used to buy the land where Charley's Steakhouse and the Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport currently stand. That’s where FDOT plans to build a future transit hub for buses and trains.

The state closed on that land earlier this year.

The change in the budget -- moving millions of dollars planned for the downtown interchange to the westshore area -- is a shift in the timing of when the department will buy up land, not a nixing of that part of the project.

“It doesn’t change the total that will go toward right of way acquisition,” Hunt said, “It just changes what got purchased when. We always said right of way will occur over many years.”

But Alden said the shift in the timeline does buy more time before the state can purchase the land it needs downtown. Many opposed to TBX have asked that the state hold off on buying that land until the project can be further evaluated.

“I think that will help give some extra time to wrap up that (project development and environment) reevaluation, so that’s all for the good,” Alden said.

Alden will provide a full report of what projects the state plans to move forward with in the next five years to all of the MPO committees during the month of May.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 8:01pm]


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