1. News

Facing billions in transportation needs, Hillsborough commissioners find $8 million for roads

Published Dec. 3, 2015

TAMPA — Go Hillsborough wasn't on the agenda for Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, but the transportation funding initiative continues to cast a pall over county business.

Commissioners fought several times over transportation funding throughout the meeting, the first since county leaders endorsed a referendum on whether to raise the sales tax a half-cent to pay for roads, sidewalks and transit projects. After a bizarre and chaotic sequence, the commission ultimately put aside $8 million for road work in the meeting's final moments.

The $8 million was excess money that was not used by Hillsborough's constitutional officers last year. Typically, those funds are held onto in case other expenses spring up after the budget is finalized. It's also just a fraction of the billions consultants estimate Hillsborough County will need to fund decades of transportation needs.

But Commissioner Sandy Murman called for the $8 million to go toward transportation — a gesture she said was symbolic but important. At last month's big transportation meeting, Murman voted against putting the sales-tax increase on the 2016 ballot. Instead she floated her own plan that relied on future growth, new fees on developers and a gas tax hike.

"We need to start putting our money where our mouth is," she said Wednesday. "We all sit here and talk about transportation ad nauseam."

Murman's motion failed for lack of support. It didn't even get a second.

She made another attempt, this time allocating $7.9 million to transportation.

Nearly every commissioner spoke critically — Commissioner Victor Crist likened it to "shooting at flies" — and County Administrator Mike Merrill cautioned against it.

But when it came time to vote, the measure passed 4-2.

"Now I'm not only speechless but shocked," Murman said.

Early in the meeting, another transportation debate broke out over a SouthShore development.

The developer, Duke Realities, agreed to pay $102,000 toward the widening of Big Bend Road in Gibsonton. While that was triple what was required of Duke under existing law, it represents a fraction of the cost of the project, estimated between $4 million and $5 million.

The development, an industrial park with 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space, has become a proxy in the county's ongoing dilemma over who should pay to build roads when new developments emerge.

Six years ago, the widening of Big Bend would have fallen on the shoulders of the developer. However, a change in state law means the county is on the hook for all but $34,000 of the expense. Duke agreed to pay three times that to ease commissioners' concerns.

Commissioners Kevin Beckner and Stacy White, however, said the agreement was still problematic because the agreement also extended Duke's exemptions from future mobility fees to 2026. The county is considering a switch from impact fees charged to developers to mobility fees, which would be much higher. However, the amended agreement passed 5-2.


  1. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.
  2. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
  3. Maurice A. Ferré at his Miami home earlier this year. JOSE A. IGLESIAS  |  Miami Herald
    He served as mayor for 12 years and set the stage for Miami to become an international city.
  4. Lilly Beth Rodriguez, left, Laura Robertson and Linda Lamont work on a Habitat for Humanity house in north Pasco. [Times (2013)]
    The increase is expected to happen in the first half of next year. CEO hopes other nonprofits follow suit.
  5. Terry Spencer carries his daughter, Trinity, through high water on 59th Street near Stewart Road in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, as heavy rain from Tropical Depression Imelda caused street flooding on the island. JENNIFER REYNOLDS  |  AP
    Although the amount of predicted rainfall is massive — forecasters say some places could see 40 inches or more this week.
  6. This April 2001 photo, which appeared in a newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy, shows a costumed Justin Trudeau, his face and hands darkened by makeup, attending an "Arabian Nights" gala. The academy is a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (West Point Grey Academy/The Canadian Press via AP)
    A few Southern politicians responded to similar scandals recently with denials, apologies, and promises. Most of them have managed to stay in office.
  7. The number of single-family homes sold in the Tampa Bay area during August rose 2.8 percent when compared with the same month last year, according to a monthly report from Florida Realtors. (Times file photo)
    The midpoint price in the bay area rose to $250,000, which is still lower than the state and national median prices.
  8. This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    “People need to pay attention to the birds around them because they are slowly disappearing,” said the study’s lead author.
  9. Michael Robert-Jose Harbaugh has pleaded guilty in the 2017 slaying of Safety Harbor neighbor David Sommer, a former reporter. Harbaugh also pleaded guilty to a charge he tried to have a witness in the case killed. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
    Former journalist David Sommer was killed in 2017. Michael Harbaugh, 42, agreed to serve 30 years in prison for his crimes.
  10. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.