Tampa City Council questions DOT officials about Tampa Bay Express
TAMPA — The City Council wants to know the full economic impact of Tampa Bay Express, the $6 billion road project that will add tolls to the area’s interstates.
The Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday updated the council on the status of the massive road project, known as TBX, including potential community enhancements the state hopes to make once TBX is built.
Program management administrator Ed McKinney talked about adding shuffleboard courts, soccer fields, murals and extra lighting.
When he finished, Council member Mike Suarez asked what the economic impact of the controversial project would be.
DOT officials said they haven't yet studied that, but agreed to do so.
That study wold take about six months and probably won’t start until January, McKinnon said.
The TBX toll project has drawn much criticism for its impact on Tampa neighborhoods and, most recently, the state's plan to replace a free lane on the Howard Frankland Bridge with a toll lane when the northbound span is rebuilt around 2019. After a dozen or so elected officials complained that they didn't know about DOT's bridge plans, state officials reversed course and declared that the Howard Frankland would keep four free lanes on each span.
With no economic information to discuss, the Tampa City Council shifted its attention to other questions about the project.
Suarez asked the state to study whether the toll lanes could be elevated, like with the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway; Council member Harry Cohen pressed for more details about what the reconstructed Howard Frankland Bridge would look like; and Council member Charlie Miranda encouraged the state to do a better job educating politicians and the public about the plan.
“The message we’re sending is so convoluted,” Miranda said. “I don’t think anybody has any idea what’s going on.”