Sunday, August 19, 2018
Transportation

No tolls for I-275, FDOT decides, but now its focus switches to I-75

TAMPA — A plan for express toll lanes on Interstate 275 north through Bearss Avenue is officially dead.

But the Florida Department of Transportation is now giving more weight to the prospect of toll lanes along stretches of Interstate 75.

Local DOT secretary David Gwynn confirmed to Hillsborough elected leaders Wednesday that the agency will not pursue toll lanes on I-275 between I-4 and Bearss. The move had been opposed for years by activists in Tampa Heights, V.M Ybor and other neighborhoods along the stretch.

In its place, I-75 would become the main north-south option for moving commuters from suburbs north of Tampa as part of the department’s rebranded Tampa Bay Next initiative. The department has begun a year-long state study to determine where along I-75 to charge the tolls.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE What’s next for Tampa Bay’s transportation future

This could include stretches around Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Wesley Chapel and other points north in Pasco County, Gwynn said. Areas as far as Sun City Center and South Hillsborough also are being considered.

The express lanes are needed, he said, to reduce journey times. He is not expecting the same level of opposition as the transportation department encountered when it proposed the I-275 tolls.

"We’re re-looking at the whole situation to see if there is another way to get the most of what we want for mobility with less impact to the community," he said. "On I-75, there is lot more vacant land. It’s not as developed along the corridor."

Tampa Heights Civic Association President Rick Fernandez was among the activists who fought against expanding I-275 in downtown Tampa. He had heard the plan had been shelved but said Tuesday it was nice to have it confirmed.

"It’s certainly a big victory for the people in the urban core neighborhoods," he said. "The express toll lane would have been the reason for expanding the footprint of the interstate."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, whose campaign for office included a pledge to fight the state’s plan for I-275, said she was thrilled. The expansion would have repeated the demolition of inner-city neighborhoods in the 1960s for construction of interstates through the city.

"We don’t need to double down on the bad decisions made in the 1960s to put more asphalt through urban cores and destroy the fabric of those communities," Kemp said.

Gwynn also announced Wednesday that the transportation department has come up with new options to reduce the impact of a proposed redesign for the downtown interchange, often called "Malfunction Junction" by motorists.

The state’s original plan included an option to completely rebuild the intersection, requiring the purchase of almost 200 neighboring plots of land. Two new options would use existing roads and add an elevated express lane either to the south or north. That would reduce the number of parcels the state would need to buy to between and 30 and 80, FDOT documents show.

"We could be down to as few as 30 parcels," he said "All of that came out of the input we received from the community."

The state has yet to make a decision on what option it will pursue. The costs range from $775 million to $1.6 billion.

Gwynn provided his update at a Tampa meeting of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, a 16-member board that approves transportation projects.

He also took the opportunity to dismiss claims it is pushing a plan for a tri-county bus rapid transit or BRT line. He said the agency only gets involved when local governments have finalized a plan and are seeking funding.

"If we had a project and a funding plan, then we’d be ready," he said.

The proposed 41-mile BRT service, which would run from Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg through downtown Tampa, has the support of elected leaders in Pasco and Pinellas counties and the region’s business community.

But it’s unclear if it has support of most Hillsborough County commissioners, who would likely be asked to find funds for much of the $455 million cost.

Contact Christopher O’Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Comments
Have you made up your mind on a transportation sales tax? Many candidates haven’t

Have you made up your mind on a transportation sales tax? Many candidates haven’t

TAMPA — Some 77,000 people signed a petition to place a sales-tax hike for transportation on the Nov. 6 ballot, but many of the 17 people seeking seats on the Hillsborough County Commission say they’re still making up their minds.Some candidates aren...
Published: 08/17/18
Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

TAMPA — The group behind a sales tax transportation initiative used hundreds of volunteers and spent at least $550,000 on a petition-gathering firm in a frantic six-week dash to qualify for the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.That may have been the ea...
Published: 08/11/18
Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

The vendor responsible for recent problems with the SunPass tolling system could be on the hook to pay the state at least $1.7 million based on a review of documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.But the Florida Department of Transportation hasn’t ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

TAMPA — As if there wasn’t enough riding on the mid-term elections, a plan to raise the sales tax to pay for transportation projects is now set to go before Hillsborough voters.The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections confirmed Wednesday that ...
Published: 08/08/18

Flooding closes WPA Road in Brooksville; Rackley, other roads still closed

BROOKSVILLE — Flooding on Wednesday led the Hernando County Department of Public Works to close WPA Road just south of its intersection with Mondon Hill Road.More than a foot of water is covering part of the road, east of downtown Brooksville, accord...
Published: 08/08/18
Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

TAMPA — If the long-awaited commuter ferry service between south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base ever happens, it will likely be without federal money. Leaders of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority acknowledged Mon...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

TAMPA — Brightline, the firm behind the passenger rail system between Miami and West Palm Beach, doesn’t yet know if it will win a state bid to build a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando.But the company is already scouting sites for a ter...
Updated one month ago
Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

People who travel from Pinellas County to southern Hillsborough using the interstates may want to build in some extra time.The Florida Department of Transportation has shut down the ramp that shuttles motorists from southbound Interstate 275 in Manat...
Updated one month ago
Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Mark Hubbard, the owner of Hubbard’s Marina on John’s Pass, has watched two decades of uncertainty over the future of waterborne transportation play out in Tampa Bay. Just when it seems that Tampa and St. Petersburg have figured out how ...
Updated one month ago
One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

When Florida wanted to consolidate its tolling systems into what drivers now know as SunPass, regional expressway agencies in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were ready to work together. But when Xerox spinoff Conduent State & Local Solutions was chosen as...
Updated one month ago