Thursday, May 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: 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 ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

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...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18