Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa's toll road authority survives state takeover attempt, for now

TALLAHASSEE — The University of South Florida and the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority must feel like brothers in arms.

Both institutions have been fending off legislation that they say would weaken them. USF scrambled the past two weeks to restore cuts that were made to its budget in a battle with Sen. JD Alexander.

Meanwhile, the Expressway Authority, builder and operator of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, feels just as besieged by an attempt to fold it and two other regional toll agencies into the Department of Transportation.

Why should local commuters care? Because, Expressway Authority officials say, local control of an agency that builds projects to relieve Hillsborough congestion would be lost. And permission to build future projects would be ceded to the state, which would also control the toll revenue produced.

"It's been such a distraction," said Expressway Authority chairman Steven Diaco. "A lot of resources and time have been spent fighting this."

Florida DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said consolidation under state control would help the regional expressway authorities, not hurt them. The authorities would save about $24 million a year by shifting bureaucratic expenses to the state, he said.

"Why do we need these shadow governments across the state?" Prasad said. "Once you have a project built, why do you need to create a bureaucracy to operate it when you already have a bureaucracy?"

So far, however, Prasad has been stymied. He agreed to weaken his proposal so that it would affect only toll road collections, not the hiring of bond counsel or other matters that could have wider financial implications. But that bill was gutted last week.

"As it stands currently, it'll be status quo for the expressway authorities," Prasad said.

Expressway Authority officials aren't taking any chances.

Executive director Joseph Waggoner is heading to Tallahassee today to monitor any last-minute maneuvering, and lobbyist Barney Bishop has been working with the expressway authorities to defeat the legislation.

Bishop said that by controlling expressway authority revenues — Tampa's authority has about $200 million — the state can help the state DOT to borrow more. That extra money could then be spent on projects elsewhere, he said.

Bishop and Waggoner question the DOT's claim that enveloping the regional authorities under the state would save $24 million. They say the savings would be only $3 million at the most. Prasad stands by his estimate, and says the state wouldn't direct money from the toll authorities into projects elsewhere in the state.

"The money would stay local," he said. "It's not a money grab."

Still, local lawmakers were wary. Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, helped defeat the state's efforts.

"We're holding firm against it," Weatherford said. "It's so important for Hillsborough to have its own authority. It's doing projects cheaply and efficiently. We don't want to lose that power.

"It's dead, for now."

Tampa's toll road authority survives state takeover attempt, for now 03/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 8:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The awkward photo of the Pope, Trump and first family that's taking the internet by storm

    Global Warming

    VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to make his point with a gift.

    Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday. The Pope welcomed Trump to the Vatican Wednesday, shaking his hand before ushering him into his study for the first face-to-face meeting of the two leaders, who symbolize starkly different views of the world. [Evan Vucci/Pool via The New York Times]
  2. Tampa police say 41-year-old man shot and killed by ex-boss, investigation ongoing

    Crime

    TAMPA — A 41-year-old man was shot and killed by his former boss Wednesday morning outside the West Tampa auto body shop where they once worked together, according to Tampa police.

  3. Father and brother of alleged bomber detained in Libya

    World

    The father and younger brother of the man who British police say bombed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester have been detained in Libya, where anti-terror authorities said the brother confessed to knowing "all the details" of the attack plot.

    Hashim Ramadan Abedi appears inside the Tripoli-based Special Deterrent anti-terrorism force unit after his arrest on Tuesday for alleged links to the Islamic State extremist group. Abedi is the brother of Salman Abedi, who has been identified as the man behind the bombing that killed 22 people and wounded scores at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. [Ahmed Bin Salman, Special Deterrent Force via AP]
  4. Marijuana extract Epidiolex helps some kids with epilepsy, study shows

    Health

    A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot's possible health benefits.

    An employee checks a plant at LeafLine Labs, a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn. [Associated Press (2015)]
  5. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    President Donald Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House with members of the GOP on May 4 after the House passed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act. [Cheriss May | Sipa USA via TNS]