Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Roads won't solve congestion

The transportation budget that Gov. Rick Scott proposed last week will help ease congestion in some areas and create much-needed construction jobs. But the plan does nothing to break the state from its costly reliance on roads as the primary means of travel, and it does little to inspire communities to improve mass transit. Florida cannot afford or compete with a transportation strategy rooted in the last century. State legislators should rebalance the governor's priorities.

The governor's plan says as much about his transit priorities as his jobs agenda in the run-up to his re-election campaign. The state would increase transportation spending next year by $917 million, to $9 billion total, an 11 percent jump. Scott said the increase would create an estimated half-million jobs — jobs that would be in the pipeline as the governor ramps up his 2014 campaign. The measure also reasonably increases the investment in the state's deepwater ports as Florida lays a foundation for new trade opportunities spawned by the expansion of the Panama Canal.

The state would spend billions of dollars in the coming years on interstates, highways and toll roads. Much of that work would help ease congestion in the major urban centers of Tampa Bay, Orlando and South Florida. In this region alone, the state would spend more than $650 million to improve the interstate systems, expand the Veterans Expressway in north Hillsborough County and add lanes around the intersection of Interstate 275 and State Road 60. The state would spend roughly $250 million in the next five years on road projects in mid Pinellas, including $138 million to build an elevated expressway along 118th Avenue that will stretch from U.S. 19 to Roosevelt Boulevard. Another $25.6 million would be spent in Citrus County over the next five years to acquire land to extend the Suncoast Parkway.

Those projects are badly needed, but the preoccupation with roads in general is a throwback compared with states and regions that are diversifying their transit options with express bus service, light rail and other forms of public transportation. Scott's budget includes only $400 million in direct spending on transit, less than 5 percent of next year's transportation budget. Indeed, the big winners next year are the state's seaports: Florida would spend more than double next year, or $247 million, on seaport grants. The Port of Tampa stands to gain tens of millions of dollars in the coming years.

Scott has used the seaport money as a political diversion ever since he rejected billions in federal dollars soon after taking office that would have paid for a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando. That system would have improved traffic along Interstate 4 and caused feeder bus service to explode throughout the region. But instead of investing in a modern transportation system that will need to serve some 26 million people by 2040, Scott is looking to expand toll roads and build new expressways across rural areas of the state. That is a recipe for sprawl and future gridlock.

The Legislature should insist on a balanced, cost-efficient strategy for meeting the state's transportation needs. Rail, bus, high-occupancy lanes and other transit options must have a place in the planning process and a funding source for getting these systems off the drawing board. The state cannot pave its way out of traffic congestion.

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Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Allowing felons a meaningful chance to reclaim their right to vote and rejoin civic life is edging closer to reality in Florida. On Tuesday the state announced that a yearslong petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot h...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18