Pasco Commission backs TBX
DADE CITY – A Pasco County Commission majority is getting behind the state’s Tampa Bay Express multibillion-dollar project adding toll lanes to the interstate highways in Tampa.
On a 4-1 vote Tuesday, commissioners endorsed the project and will consider it again Thursday morning when they sit, with elected officials from four Pasco cities, as the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The commission joins the Pasco Economic Development Council and the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce as local advocates for the expansion. On the commission, only Commissioner Jack Mariano dissented, saying he “loved the idea of express buses’’ but feared a proliferation of toll roads in the future.
His own staff, however, pointed out the state and county are rebuilding the Interstate 75 interchange at State Road 52; adding a new interchange at Overpass Road and working to bring a so-called divergent diamond interchange at I-75 and State Road 56. Without expansions further south on I-275 near Bearss Avenue and on I-75 near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Pasco’s motorists “are going to be able go faster to the heightened congestion level,’’ said Richard Gehring, the county’s strategic policy administrator.
Fifty-two percent of the county’s morning commuter trips head out of Pasco, mostly to the south, said Jim Edwards, staff director for the Pasco MPO.
The leading supporter was Commissioner Mike Moore of Wesley Chapel who said the project would lessen commute times for Pasco motorists and enhance their quality of life.
Likewise, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority Director Ramond Chiaramonte called TBX “a critical project for our region. I feel like some of our suburban areas really haven’t realized the importance this has to their community.’’