Sunday, April 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Smart to keep TBX road plan moving

Hillsborough County did the right thing this week by moving ahead with Tampa Bay Express, the state's controversial and costly plan for improving the region's interstate system. While TBX has flaws that need to be addressed, it made no sense at this early stage to reject billions of dollars in state transportation improvements. By keeping TBX alive, local leaders have created space to work with the state on improving TBX, softening its impact on area communities and augmenting the road work with new investments in mass transit and neighborhood design.

Hillsborough's Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 12-4 to retain TBX in its long-term plan after a marathon meeting that ended early Thursday. The plan calls for remaking I-275, I-4 and I-75 (partly with express toll lanes), fixing interchanges and building a new northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge. The MPO acknowledged reality with its lopsided support; these roads are already badly congested, and they need a serious and timely fix if this region is to grow, compete and retain its quality of life.

While TBX has polarized some business leaders and neighborhood activists, the public hearing that drew hundreds of people and scores of speakers exposed a budding middle ground. TBX is not the cure-all that some advocates claim, and it doesn't have to be the neighborhood-killer that many opponents fear. There is room here to build a larger interstate but rethink its design. That requires an honest assessment of the role the interstates play in the region and an appreciation for the urban renewal in Tampa that has strengthened the inner city tax base.

County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Kevin Beckner, who took opposite sides in the MPO vote, strengthened the plan Thursday by pushing through measures that call on the state Department of Transportation to be more open and deliberative about ways to lessen the impact of the construction and expand mass transit. By approving these amendments unanimously, the MPO increased its negotiating hand with the DOT, setting the right expectations as the conversation over design and scale of the highway unfolds over the coming year.

Neighborhood activists will lose this battle if they frame the debate exclusively as a policy choice between roads and mass transit, or as a red line against suburban sprawl. The interstates are where they are, and they are not moving. The land development patterns are already in place, and residents and businesses need better regional connectivity. On the flip side, business interests should recognize the huge stake Tampa has in fostering the urban renewal taking place in Seminole and Tampa Heights and the Ybor area. The two sides have more in common than it appears, and they should unite in improving TBX, from challenging the size of the interstate's footprint and the DOT's planned use of toll lanes to pushing for stronger commitments on mass transit spending.

The MPO's decision is only the start of a serious conversation about TBX. By seeking common ground, the local community can build the essential state support for a modern and truly balanced transportation system.

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Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

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

Editorial: Women’s 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 Castro’s 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 Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • 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