Friday, November 17, 2017

Ruth: St. Louis may hold answers for Tampa transportation, but not the ones FDOT thinks


No doubt St. Louis is probably a lovely place to visit. The toasted ravioli is supposed to be the cat's pajamas.

And so when a delegation of Tampanians sojourned to The Gateway City days ago, one can only hope everyone got what they wanted out of the trip. Learning how not to royally tick off large swaths of the city might be a good start.

The trip, organized by the Florida Department of Transportation, also included local politicians, business figures and especially community residents who are at some risk to seeing their neighborhood imploded should the proposed Tampa Bay Express project to expand Interstate 4/Interstate 275 lanes, including toll lanes in and around East Tampa, Seminole Heights and downtown Tampa. The TBX project had the potential to disrupt communities that in recent years have begun to enjoy something of an urban renaissance, as well as displace many minority neighborhoods.

It seems St. Louis embarked on a similar effort years ago to rebuild I-64 through the city, which also confronted considerable community opposition. And thus it was wheels up to Missouri to see how this stuff can get done without causing open revolt in the streets.

TBX generated a cacophony of protest almost from the moment it was announced with various community groups showing up at public meetings to defend their neighborhoods. Expanding lanes was certainly one issue. Another point of bitter contention revolved around FDOT plans to create a toll lane that would charge drivers as much as $2 a mile, while also sacrificing one free lane. This was sort of the transportation equivalent of tearing down the old Tampa Stadium and replacing it with Hellooooo Sucker! Field for the Tampa Bay Bucs with 10,000 fewer seats while calling it a "community stadium."

"It (TBX) started off probably not as well within the community as they would have liked either," FDOT's Tampa Bay secretary Paul Steinman told the Tampa Bay Times before the St. Louis trip. Gee, do ya think?

Apparently, St. Louis resolved some of its issues with local residents in the spirit of greater communication and compromise. What? You have to travel all the way to St. Louis to figure that out?

To be sure, the greater Tampa Bay region is growing and so are our roadways. There isn't much of an argument the area needs to address its legendary (and well deserved) reputation for having one of the most horrible, dreadful, obsolete transit/road systems in the country.

It is also true that in the course of expanding the transit grid homes and properties will probably have to be sacrificed. It may not be fair, but it is true.

Steinman also noted St. Louis worked with local communities to find ways to expand I-64 as well as complement the surrounding neighborhoods. That sounds just peachy.

But here's the thing. Imagine being a homeowner in Seminole Heights and one day an official from FDOT shows up and says: "We're very sorry but we have to take your house for a public works project."

Perhaps you've invested thousands of dollars to rehab your home and now it is a showcase. You now live in a highly regarded neighborhood filled with trendy cafes, bars and boutiques. And you've been a part of that revival. And now you're being told you need to get out.

And for what? So FDOT can pour more concrete, to build more lanes that will only become just as congested as the current status quo. If you are going to be asked to sacrifice your home, shouldn't it also be for a greater good that includes mass transit and enhanced bus routes? You know, just like real big cities do, like the nearly 50-mile St. Louis Metrolink light rail system.

Now that would be worth visiting.

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trumpís latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included ó along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election ó an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Editorial: U.S. should resume processing visas for Cubans

Editorial: U.S. should resume processing visas for Cubans

The health attacks reported on American diplomats in Cuba deserve a serious investigation, and the Cuban governmentís cooperation in the case will ó for better or for worse ó shape the emerging relationship between the two nations. But the Trump admi...
Published: 11/13/17

Another voice: This little-discussed part of the GOP tax bill proves what itís really about

Republicans insist that their tax reform is designed to help the middle class and curb the use of tax loopholes. But a little-discussed provision tells a different story. That provision is the repeal of the alternative minimum tax, which would serve ...
Published: 11/12/17
Updated: 11/13/17
Editorial: Eaganís departure from HART a loss for Tampa Bay

Editorial: Eaganís departure from HART a loss for Tampa Bay

Katharine Eaganís departure as the chief executive of Hillsborough Regional Transit to run the transit agency in Pittsburgh reflects the sorry state of transportation in Tampa Bay. While there recently has been encouraging movement on several fronts,...
Published: 11/09/17

Another voice: Donít get too cocky, Dems

For months, the Virginia gubernatorial race has been seen as a bellwether of the Democratic Partyís capacity to rebound from its stunning loss to Republican Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential contest, and the results were about as good as Democrat...
Published: 11/09/17

Editorial: Remarkable support for Penny for Pinellas

A 55 percent win in any election is a solid victory. Constitutional amendments in Florida must win 60 percent of the vote to be approved. And tax referendums are often hard to pass by any margin. That makes it all the more remarkable that the extensi...
Published: 11/08/17
Updated: 11/10/17