Saturday, May 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New name, new tack on transit

Opponents of Tampa Bay Express were quick to dismiss the announcement by Florida's Department of Transportation last week that it was renaming the controversial plan to rebuild the area's interstate system. But changing the name from TBX to Tampa Bay Next is more than a rebranding effort, and regional leaders and activists should take this opportunity to build state support for a more multimodal approach to solving the region's transportation needs.

The change came in response to criticism of TBX's road-centric approach, and signaled the DOT would be more inclusive in its planning and more open to rail and other forms of mass transit as part of the region's future. As originally envisioned, TBX called for rebuilding the area's interstate system, building a new northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge and creating 90 miles of toll lanes across the west coast of Florida.

Even under the new name, Tampa Bay Next still includes several controversial proposals, including express toll lanes on the bridge and tolls in sections of Interstates 4 and 275, downtown Tampa and around Tampa's West Shore business district. But the new plan hedges by declaring the DOT is "evaluating" most new express lanes, and the new plan underscores that any interstate improvements must be made "in the context of a comprehensive regional transportation system." That's government shorthand for balance, and it's a step forward in assuring that mass transit will play a larger role in moving this region's 3 million people.

The change in language is more than it appears, and it is the clearest indication yet of what DOT had in mind when it announced a "reset" of the plan in December. The state is going to lengths in calling for "a truly integrated, multimodal regional transportation system," and it is promoting the pitch that "transit and roads work together." There is no reason to doubt the agency; it has extended the timetable for making key decisions on transit modes, and — helpfully — handed the $6 billion project off to Gov. Rick Scott's successor, which alone should be encouraging to transit supporters. Opponents of TBX now need to figure out how to run with a win and make Tampa Bay Next deserving of broader public support.

Whatever this project's name, roadway expansion will be part of any solution. The DOT can build public faith by moving to fix the dangerous bottlenecks in the West Shore area even as it works with local governments on new mass transit options. Here again, the timetable is helpful, as two ongoing studies are already examining whether to expand Tampa's downtown streetcar and to build a regional rail system.

The DOT needlessly burned its credibility early on by plowing ahead with TBX without input or buy-in from the cross-section of the community that would be most affected. It's the agency's job to demonstrate that this new incarnation, Tampa Bay Next, is more than a marketing exercise. That certainly seems the case. But the state will need to bring hard commitments and money to the planning table. Likewise, those opposed to TBX need to recognize that roads will play a part, that the interstates are where they are, that a solution must be multimodal and that Tampa Bay Next might work.

The public needs a chance to be fully heard and for options beyond tolled lanes and highway construction to truly be on the table. The plan must be forward-looking and consider the value being either added or destroyed to these communities through the various transit modes. The one option that's unacceptable is to stay put. The state and the region need to move ahead with Tampa Bay Next in the spirit it was proposed and offer a range of transit options where they work best.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18