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Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3401

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. So, about those Tampa Bay Express accountability measures …

    Blog

    TAMPA — Hillsborough leaders made a big show early Thursday morning of adding accountability measures before approving a $6 billion road project known as Tampa Bay Express.

    Turns out, those attempts at oversight might not mean much....

    A bird's-eye view of Mobley Park apartments in Tampa, next to Interstate 275 South, where residents could be affected by possible highway expansion.
  2. Eight hours and one contentious vote later, pro-TBX and anti-TBX forces regroup

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay was recovering from a transportation hangover Thursday.

    A highly-anticipated public hearing at the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization regarding Tampa Bay Express, a $6 billion road project that will add 90 miles of toll lanes to the area's interstate system, started Wednesday evening and lasted 8½- hours.

    It was almost 2:30 a.m. Thursday when the MPO finally voted 12-4 to keep TBX on track. Hundreds of dedicated community members — pro-TBX and anti-TBX — then shuffled out of the government building....

    Hundreds of Tampa Bay Express supporters and opponents packed county center on Wednesday night for the big Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization's vote on TBX. After 8?- hours, the MPO voted 12-4 to keep TBX on track. The meeting didn't end until around 2:30 a.m. Thursday. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  3. In wee hours, Hillsborough leaders approve Tampa Bay Express, keep it in long-term plan (w/video)

    Transportation

    TAMPA — It was one small step forward for Tampa Bay Express, one giant step backward for the opposition.

    The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 12 to 4 shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday morning to keep the divisive $6 billion road project known as TBX on track by keeping it in its long-term funding plans.

    But an incremental step for TBX amounted to a big setback for critics, who oppose the plan to add 90 miles of tolled express lanes to the interstate system linking five counties. They saw the meeting as their chance to bring the project to a halt....

    A birds-eye view of Mobley Park apartments in Tampa, next to Interstate 275 South, where residents could be affected by possible highway expansion. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Key vote tonight for $6 billion Tampa Bay toll project

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Much has changed since Hillsborough officials last voted on Tampa Bay Express, a massive $6 billion road project that will add toll lanes to the region's interstate system.

    In August, the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to keep the project, known as TBX, on its long-range plan. Only one of the 16 MPO board members voted against it: Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco....

    A birds eye view of Mobley Park apartments that's located next to Interstate 275 south where residents could be affected by a possible expansion of highway expansion in Tampa on Friday, May 20, 2016. The $6 billion Tampa Bay Express project is up for a vote on Wednesday that could clinch its funding. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  5. U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Jim Davis endorse Ed Narain for Florida Senate District 19

    Blog

    TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and former U.S. Rep Jim Davis, D-Tampa, have endorsed state Rep. Ed Narain in the Florida Senate District 19 race.

    Narain is one of three prominent lawmakers vying for the seat currently held by state Sen. Arthenia Joyner.  Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and former state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, are also seeking to fill the seat....

  6. Pinellas officials endorse Darryl Rouson for Arthenia Joyner's state Senate seat

    Blog

    A wave of St. Petersburg elected officials have endorsed state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, in his bid to fill Arthenia Joyner's state Senate District 19 seat.

    Rouson is one of three candidates -- all with experience in the Florida House of Representatives -- seeking the recently redrawn district that no longer includes Manatee County, but instead added more parts of Pinellas....

  7. Despite opposition, gay pride flag raised outside Hillsborough County center

    Local

    TAMPA — An LGBT pride flag now waves above Hillsborough County Center, but it's a decision some in the community aren't happy about, especially given a County Commission vote last year to remove the Confederate flag from the building.

    Conservative activist Terry Kemple was one of several individuals who urged the board Wednesday to vote against Commissioner Kevin Beckner's proposal to fly the LGBT pride flag through June 30 in remembrance of the 49 victims who were killed in the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub Sunday....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner helps raise the LGBT pride flag outside of the county center Wednesday.
  8. Hillsborough Commissioner wants June recognized as LGBT Pride Month

    Blog

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner wants the county to fly a pride flag throughout the month of June in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.

    Beckner filed an off-the-agenda item on Monday for Wednesday’s Board of County Commission meeting.

    The item requests that staff prepare a resolution that would fly the flag during June each year.

    Beckner also wants the county to commemorate June 12 “as a day of reflection and remembrance.” This would include sponsoring an annual candlelight vigil in the Joe Chillura Park or other designated county park or facility....

  9. Kimberly Overman files to run against Les Miller for Hillsborough County Commission

    Blog

    Financial analyst, Seminole Heights activist and Stop TBX advocate Kimberly Overman filed yesterday with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections to run against Les Miller as a Democrat for the Hillsborough County Commission District 3 seat.

    Overman announced her intention to file last week on Facebook. Her documents on the supervisor’s site were dated June 13.

    “My volunteerism and continual rants about the need for smart policy and leadership may be making some difference, but I am not sure I am willing to wait until the next election cycle to effect better government,” Overman wrote on Facebook Saturday....

  10. Business community urges leaders to approve Tampa Bay Express

    Blog

    TAMPA — Members of the business community issued a new statement Tuesday urging local officials to vote in favor of Tampa Bay Express, a $6 billion overhaul of the area’s interstates.

    The group issued its first letter of support more than a month ago when 20 prominent businesses had signed on in support. That number swelled Tuesday when an additional 60 individuals signed on, including Barney Barnett of Publix Super Markets, Bryan Glazer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom James of Raymond James Financial, Liz Smith of Bloomin’ Brands and Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning....

    A bird's eye view of Mobley Park apartments, located next to Interstate 275, where about 300 people could be displaced by a $6 highway expansion project on Friday, May 20, 2016.
  11. Is history repeating itself with Tampa Bay Express?

    Blog

    When the interstates were built in the 1950s and 1960s adn 1970s, they cut through poor black communities across the nation, displacing 475,000 people over two decades.

    In Tampa, the interstate tore through places like Ybor City, Tampa Heights and "the Scrub."

    The Scrub was one of Tampa's first black settlements and home to people in what is now Tampa Heights. 

    Fast forward to 2016, and the Florida Department of Transportation is considering expanding the interstates for a $6 billion project called Tampa Bay Express....

    That dirt road became Interstate 275, demolishing hundreds of homes in the 1960s and 1970s. The $6 billion TBX expansion project could require additional homes to be demolished.
  12. 8 questions answered about the Tampa Bay Express interstate project

    Roads

    Love it or hate it, this much is certain: Tampa Bay Express will radically change a regional system connecting about 3.8 million people.

    Here's a heads-up about when it's coming, where it's going, and how much it's going to cost.

    A heavy toll: Here's how Tampa Bay's $6B highway expansion will burden minorities...

     Andy Harris, left, a resident of Seminole Heights, where he lives on Central Avenue talks with Jeffrey Novotny, a project manager at American Consulting Engineers of Florida, during the Tampa Bay Expressway information sessions at the Seminole Heights Library in Tampa on Thursday, May 5, 2016. Harris and his family oppose the project, which could take many homes in their neighborhood. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  13. Here's how Tampa Bay's $6B highway expansion will burden minorities

    Roads

    Tampa Bay Express calls for widening the region's highways to create 90 miles of toll lanes that promise a faster ride.

    Top regional officials are urging the public to get behind TBX, calling the project a boon to business owners, their employees, tourists and commuters.

    But the $6 billion project, much like the first highways built half a century ago, puts a disproportionate burden on minority and low-income residents whose homes are in its path....

    A birds eye view of Mobley Park apartments that's located next to Interstate 275 south where residents could be affected by a possible expansion of highway expansion in Tampa on Friday, May 20, 2016. Residents and businesses along Interstate 275 stretching from Bearss Avenue to the Westshore area could be affected by the proposed widening of the highway by the Florida Department of Transportation.
  14. Florida Senate candidates address minimum wage at St. Petersburg Candidate Forum

    Local

    TAMPA — Three of the area's best-known black lawmakers aimed to draw distinctions between themselves during a candidate forum Saturday as they vie to fill Arthenia Joyner's state Senate District 19 seat.

    The race is poised to be a heated Democratic primary that pits three prominent state representatives against each other: Rep. Ed Narain, a first-term House member from Tampa; Betty Reed, a popular former state representative from Tampa, and Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg, a lawyer who reached his term limit in the House this year....

    Former state Rep. Betty Reed, state Reps. Darryl Rouson and Ed Narain answer questions during a candidates forum for the Senate District 19 race in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
  15. Tiger Bay's third rail? Light rail, obvs.

    Blog

    Suncoast Tiger Bay Club has a reputation of getting a little rowdy from time to time.

    It’s one they’ve spent the past year trying to change, Tiger Bay President and Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long said.

    But old instincts die hard. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Friday’s discussion about transportation, one of the most heated topics in Tampa Bay, turned a little raucous....