Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Private toll road a bad idea

Pasco County needs better traffic flow between east and west, but the answer is not a privately owned toll road. After receiving an unsolicited bid from a private company in June to build a toll road along the State Road 54/56 corridor for 25 miles from U.S. 19 to Wesley Chapel, and potentially further east toward Zephyrhills, the Florida Department of Transportation sought additional proposals. The state should be wary of turning over its responsibility for building roads to private enterprise more interested in making a profit.

Under the plan, the state would sell or lease public right of way, allowing a private company to build new lanes in the median for uninterrupted travel and to charge tolls to recoup the projected $2 billion investment. Planners envision elevated, managed toll lanes for motorists and express buses.

The push for private highways is a by-product of a smaller government, less-tax philosophy in a state unwilling to raise revenue to meet its transportation needs. The problem is exacerbated by Florida's role as a donor state on federal gas taxes, receiving 91 cents in federal road money for every dollar it sends to Washington. To public officials, the private road scheme has the allure of pushing the financial risk onto the private sector and saving state revenue for other highway construction. But the true risk remains with drivers, who face the prospect of pricey tolls to cover both the debt and a profit for the builder/operator.

Portions of the route have been troublesome for road planners. More than two decades ago, elected officials and the DOT failed to connect the Veterans Expressway to Interstate 75 with an east-west road through Lutz in Hillsborough or Land O' Lakes in southern Pasco. The SR 54/SR 56 highway acted as that connection, forcing thousands of daily rush-hour commuters to travel with school buses and other local traffic in growing congestion. The impetus for a new road now comes from Pasco County's long-range plan to funnel future growth into that corridor. Projections call for a 55 percent increase in population in that area, to more than 312,000 people, by 2035.

If the need is there, then the state should build the new lanes even if they are toll lanes. But the state shouldn't be in such a hurry to cede its toll-road authority to a private entity. The result could be an undesirable two-tiered transportation network serving more affluent commuters with private roads and forcing everyone else onto the underfunded public highway network.

Comments
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18