Sunday, April 22, 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.

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Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Airís safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administrationís reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrierís high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Womenís work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castroís handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
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...
Published: 04/18/18

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...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
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