Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: DOT listens, adjusts on I-275 plans in Tampa

Florida continues to improve its plan for modernizing the interstate system in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled four new options for rebuilding I-275 near downtown Tampa, and some of them would ditch previous plans for toll lanes downtown while keeping express lanes for faster, pass-through traffic. The DOT also continues to work in good faith to incorporate public feedback into Tampa Bay Next, the larger, controversial project for remaking 90 miles of regional interstate. These developments indicate state transportation officials are listening and better balancing the region's growth, economy and quality of life.

The presentations Monday offer the clearest suggestion yet that the DOT could change its approach after announcing a "reset" on the project last year. Officials said at the meeting that most new proposals do not include previously planned toll lanes for the downtown I-275/I-4 interchange. Downtown-area residents have objected to the toll plan for years, saying it would burden commuters, force interstate traffic onto local roads and reinforce car travel instead of promoting mass transit. This change in thinking doesn't mean that toll lanes are out or that the DOT has given up on enlarging the highway footprint. But for the first time the department has suggested express lanes could be built that drivers would not have to pay tolls to use, and that is a step in the right direction.

The four proposals floated this week are conceptual. One closely resembles the original plan and calls for express lanes along the downtown interstates. A second option rebuilds the downtown junction and eliminates express lanes north of downtown. Two others add elevated express lanes through downtown, but neither would rebuild the downtown interchange. Toll lanes are being reconsidered under all four, and even express lanes without tolls would have limited entrance and exit points to keep pass-through traffic moving. Motorists driving east toward Tampa on I-275, for example, could use express lanes to bypass downtown and reach I-4 more quickly.

The DOT is looking to generate more public support for Tampa Bay Next. It renamed the project, brought in new leadership and reopened a federal study that could lead to a smaller footprint along the interstate. Officials are still examining how mass transit will be folded into the plan, and the signs are encouraging. The DOT also has moved quickly in recent months to address several concerns; it agreed to speed improvements to the interstate near the West Shore business district and to put a hold on land-buying for the interstate plan near downtown Tampa. These are all the right decisions that should make for a better project and help bring the opposing sides together.

Tampa Bay Next is a vital step toward improving the region's transportation system. But the DOT made a mistake presenting it as a take-it-or-leave-it project. These new plans and new spirit of openness have already helped to move support for the project along considerably over the last year. There still are important questions about tolls, the size and role of the interstates, state support for mass transit and the plan for regional connectivity. But the community's concerns are being heard and considered, the strategy for moving vehicles is more efficient and the DOT is recognizing the larger picture in transit planning. The "reset" is on the right path.

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Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18