Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: New Tampa Bay bridge needs room for rail

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold public hearings this week on plans to rebuild the northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge. The state should acknowledge from the start that merely replacing a span that doesn't serve the Tampa Bay area's transportation needs today makes no sense for the long-term future of the region. The DOT needs to include a mass transit component as part of the bridge and commit to playing a major role in building it. A multimodal transit system is essential for this region to meet its growth potential in the coming decades.

The meetings on Tuesday in St. Petersburg and Thursday in Tampa are opportunities for public input in how to replace a bridge that opened in 1959 and is nearing the end of its useful life. Among the options is pairing a new, four-lane span with so-called "transit envelopes" that could accommodate express bus, rail or tolled lanes for vehicles. Toll lanes and dedicated space for buses and high-occupancy vehicles could take some of the vehicular traffic now congesting the general traffic lanes. But the toll lanes are moneymakers first, and they don't come close to providing the opportunities to move people more efficiently between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, open up more economic opportunities and better unite the region.

The DOT is still studying its options, but it needs to consider more than the up-front costs for a future bridge. Express lanes alone would be cheaper, adding about $339 million to the cost of the $390 million bridge project, compared to $989 million for a mass transit guideway. But auto lanes are not nearly as adaptable as transit lines for moving ever-increasing traffic. The Howard Frankland is the primary bridge over Old Tampa Bay, carrying an average of 142,000 vehicles per day. DOT expects that volume to increase to 200,000 vehicles by 2040. The bridge is also a critical emergency evacuation route for this coastal area. The question is not what's an expedient solution for replacing a bridge in its 60th year, but what will the region need over the course of the coming century.

Including room for rail also meets the vision of every serious regional transit plan over the last decade. The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority was formed in 2007 for the specific purpose of better connecting the region, and its latest master plan, updated in June, calls for rail over the Howard Frankland. Rail is the backbone of every cross-bay transit plan in Hillsborough, and Pinellas envisions a rail connection over the bay as it prepares for a transit tax referendum next year that would include money to build a county rail system. Accommodating rail was one reason DOT preserved a 44-foot corridor along I-275 from the Howard Frankland into Tampa, and from there along I-4 into Orlando.

The planning stage is not the time to scrounge for quick fixes. Gov. Rick Scott may want to use toll roads to compensate for not investing state money into transportation, but the reality is that rail will never connect the bay area if the state passes all of the responsibility and the costs onto local taxpayers. A new Howard Frankland could change the game, but only if the project improves the region's inadequate transit system and opens the door to new possibilities.

Comments
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17