Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Editorials

Toll lane study tries to answer 20-year-old question

RECOMMENDED READING


Trying to expedite travel time through south-central Pasco County is not a new challenge for road planners. The latest idea is to see if the route can accommodate motorists willing to pay more for a faster commute.

Last week, Pasco commissioners agreed to begin a projected six- to eight-month study of adding so-called managed lanes of traffic including variable tolls and potentially elevated highways to connect the Suncoast Parkway and Interstate 75.

It is the same traffic flow the Florida Department of Transportation has been trying to solve for more than two decades — getting vehicles from the north-south Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway to I-75. Public opposition in Hillsborough County helped kill a proposed east-west route slated for Lutz in the early 1990s and Land O'Lakes residents objected to its second incarnation as a divided highway along what was then a two-lane State Road 54.

Eventually a widened SR 54 and the addition of SR 56 became that de facto east-west route. But it has meant substantial congestion at the U.S. 41 intersection and other points as local traffic mixes each day with rush-hour commuters heading for the parkway or I-75 to travel to and from jobs in Tampa and elsewhere. With new employment centers planned in Wesley Chapel (Raymond James Financial) and close to the parkway (T. Rowe Price), a new community college campus and projected sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area and substantial growth anticipated along the corridor, the ability to move people along Pasco's southern tier is growing more imperative.

SR 54, that one-time two-lane country road that essentially doubled as a downtown for the Land O'Lakes community, is now envisioned as Tampa Bay's northern loop that would include lanes of traffic designated specifically for mass transit and toll-paying motorists. It is an aggressive proposal that challenges the typical state planning model of waiting until the DOT has enough gasoline tax revenue to widen an existing road. It will require buy-in from the private sector to pay for construction and from a driving public already confronting high gasoline costs. Certainly, there will be political considerations, too, as push back from those favoring the status quo should be expected.

Those are concerns that will be addressed later. For now, the information to be gathered includes cost, projected ridership, environmental impact and a potential timetable for proceeding. Advocates favor a more immediate start to take advantage of cheaper construction prices. There also is a sense of urgency to improve the regional transportation network in the wake of a stalled push for rail in Hillsborough County.

Many questions remain. But, the study is a worthwhile exercise to try to decipher if express toll lanes, some other transit mechanism or greater gridlock is the ultimate future to crossing Pasco's southern region.

Comments

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractorsí labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise ó for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system ó one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Krisemanís new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Krisemanís own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17