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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. Asking for transportation money means playing by DOT rules, some officials say

    Transportation

    Tampa Bay leaders say there are some challenges to asking for one-year allotments for transportation in the state budget — not the least of which is potentially crossing the state Department of Transportation, which oversees the bulk of the money.

    There are two paths toward earning state dollars for transportation: landing a spot in the DOT five-year work program or asking a legislator to place a line-item in the budget. A recent Tampa Bay Times review found that Pinellas and Hillsborough county lawmakers asked for far fewer line-items for transportation this year than their colleagues in other major counties....

    Some officials say going through DOT's five-year plan is a better way to ask for transportation money than through the state legislature.
  2. Lawmakers can request state money for transportation, but Pinellas and Hillsborough legislators aren't asking

    Blog

    Each year, legislators ask the state to pay for projects in their communities. Some of those requests make it into the budget, others don't. But this year, Hillsborough and Pinellas lawmakers aren't asking for nearly as much money for transportation projects as their counterparts in other parts of the state....

    State Senators from Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties asked for less money for transportation projects than many of their peers.
  3. Tampa Bay's legislators aren't asking for state transportation money; a fractured approach doesn't help

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Tampa Bay leaders aren't shy about proclaiming the need for more transportation dollars.

    There's $1.2 billion of unfunded road projects in Pinellas County. That number climbs to more than $4 billion in Hillsborough.

    Cash-starved transit agencies in both counties spend less per resident than counterparts almost anywhere else nationwide.

    Local officials have considered everything from raising the sales tax to using BP oil spill settlement money to plug Tampa Bay's growing transportation gap. Yet as they've scrambled to fill the void, Tampa Bay's state lawmakers have taken a pass....

    It's not just that Hillsborough County's haul of state dollars has been dwarfed by other similar-sized counties over the past three years. It's that state lawmakers aren't working to close that gap, either. Lawmakers from HIllsborough have requested only $1.9 million in transportation projects next year, a tiny fraction of the $700 million in statewide requests for transportation money. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Scott to get short-list for new DOT Secretary in April

    Blog

    Members of the Florida Transportation Commission are expected to send a short-list of three candidates for Department of Transportation secretary to Governor Rick Scott by April 20.

    Scott will pick an applicant from that list to replace former DOT Secretary Jim Boxold, who resigned from the department on Feb. 3 to work as a lobbyist for Capital City Consulting....

  5. Despite talk, it's business as usual for transportation

    Mass Transit

    A similar scene unfolded on both sides of the bay this week:

    In Hillsborough, county commissioners evaluated how to spend $812 million allocated for transportation in the next 10 years.

    In Pinellas, the transit authority board — composed of city and county leaders — debated what routes and vehicles best served the county.

    Each had a moment when one member paused the discussion, raised a copy of a recent Tampa Bay Times article revealing the region has one of the worst transit systems in America, and sent the message that "We need to do better.''...

    Officials on both sides of the bay agree Tampa Bay needs to do better when it comes to transportation, but no one suggested a new course in recent meetings. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  6. Hillsborough planners take to streets to study pedestrian safety

    Transportation

    TAMPA — They stood on the sidewalk of the busy intersection, their fluorescent vests and clipboards catching the attention of passing drivers.

    The group, composed of a dozen or so transportation planners, engineers, politicians and law enforcement, scanned the roadway looking for any way to make it safer for those who walk or ride a bike.

    To start with, the sidewalk's steep slope wasn't compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The crosswalk was slanted, not perpendicular to the curb, which is preferred. Across the street, a sidewalk stopped abruptly, leaving nowhere to go for walkers. Bushes, signs and a large green metal box made it difficult for drivers at the stoplight to see people who might cross in front of them....

    Members of the Consistent & Fair group prepare to cross  Kelly Rd. at Hillsborough Ave. during a on-street audit of Town N Country roads which is part of the Vision Zero Workshop 2 Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.  Four different action track focus groups met at the Town N Country public library Tuesday to discuss roadway characteristics and conditions near the busy intersection of Hillsborough Ave. and Hanley Rd.
  7. Cross-Bay Ferry sets sail, leaving Tampa Bay's transportation woes in its wake

    Transportation

    The crowd of politicos buzzed on the deck of the Cross-Bay Ferry as it made its first journey Tuesday from the Vinoy Basin in downtown St. Petersburg across the bay to downtown Tampa.

    The wind whipped around them. Women searched for hair ties as groups huddled close, shouting over the din of the engine....

    The Cross-Bay Ferry sits at the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg on Nov. 1, 2016, hours before its maiden voyage to Tampa. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  8. New Tampa Bay ferry to make its maiden voyage on Tuesday

    Transportation

    Starting this week, people will finally have a way to cross Tampa Bay that doesn't involve driving on one of the area's congested bridges.

    The Cross-Bay Ferry departs on its maiden voyage at 10 a.m. today from the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg. But that trip is only for elected officials, transportation leaders, business groups and other designated "VIPs."

    The general public will have to wait until Friday to test out the region's latest transportation option. For the first three weeks, anyone can ride the ferry on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; the other days of the week are reserved for investors, businesses and other designated groups....

    The Cross-Bay Ferry departs on its maiden voyage at 10 a.m. today from the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg. It will sail to downtown Tampa and then return. Regular service for the public will start Nov. 26. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  9. Hillsborough commissioners approve $600 million, road-based project list

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners approved a $600 million list of transportation projects that consists largely of road work, telling opponents they'll deal later with expanding transit options in the county.

    The commission voted in September to set aside the money for the work over the next 10 years, starting with $35 million in 2017 and increasing $5 million each year for a decade....

    Construction workers pave the northbound lanes of Dale Mabry Highway between Martin Luther King Blvd. and Hillsborough Ave. Friday after a depression opened up in the road Thursday.  The hole stretched more than 1,000 feet long and was likely caused by the recent heavy rains.
  10. Public comment on Hillsborough transportation plan to continue this afternoon

    Blog

    About 15 people spoke during the Hillsborough County Commission’s meeting Wednesday morning about a proposed $600 million, 10-year transportation plan -- and more are waiting to share their thoughts later this afternoon.

    Commissioner Chaiman Les Miller limited the public comment period to 45 minutes so the board could vote on other matters on the agenda. He said more than 30 people had signed up to speak. Those who did not have time in the morning are invited to address the board in the afternoon session. It’s unclear how many will come back to give their statements....

    Cars sit locked in evening rush hour traffic on Dale Mabry near Raymond James Stadium on Monday evening, April 25, 2016 in Tampa.
  11. State Senate | District 19

    Kyc

    Rep. Darryl Rouson, after narrowly edging out two other well-known lawmakers in the Democratic primary, will take on political newcomer John "Mr. Manners" Houman, a Republican, to replace longtime Tampa lawmaker Arthenia Joyner in the state Senate.

    About the job: Senate District 19 once covered portions of three counties, but has now narrowed to Pinellas and Hillsborough. State senators serve four-year terms and are paid $29,697 a year....

    John "Mr. Manners" Houman
  12. Tampa City Council questions FDOT officials about Tampa Bay Express

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa City Council members want to know the full economic impact of Tampa Bay Express, the $6 billion road project that will add tolls to the area's interstates.

    The Florida Department of Transportation updated the council Thursday on the status of the massive road project, known as TBX, including potential community enhancements the state hopes to make once TBX is finished....

  13. Tampa City Council questions DOT officials about Tampa Bay Express

    Blog

    TAMPA — The City Council wants to know the full economic impact of Tampa Bay Express, the $6 billion road project that will add tolls to the area’s interstates.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday updated the council on the status of the massive road project, known as TBX, including potential community enhancements the state hopes to make once TBX is built....

    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. Public scolds local officials over TBX, Howard Frankland tolls

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Community members on Tuesday berated local officials who voted to approve Tampa Bay Express, calling them "chumps" and accusing them of failing to properly vet the interstate expansion project that will add toll lanes from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

    The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group of elected and appointed officials who oversee transportation decisions in the county, had its first board meeting since state officials decided Monday to change course on an important part of TBX: replacing a free lane with a toll lane on the new northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge....

    State officials on Monday changed course on an important part of TBX: replacing a free lane with a toll lane on the new northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge.
  15. Public scolds local officials over TBX, Howard Frankland tolls

    Blog

    Community members berated officials during a board meeting Tuesday morning for voting to approve Tampa Bay Express, calling them “chumps” who failed to properly vet the road expansion project.

    The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group of elected and appointed officials who oversee transportation decisions in the county, had its first board meeting since controversy broke last month over the state’s plan to put a toll on the Howard Frankland Bridge....

    The northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge