1. Transportation

Hillsborough commissioners approve $600 million, road-based project list

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.
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.
Published Oct. 19, 2016

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.

The projects list commissioners approved Wednesday focuses on safety improvements at intersections and schools, road resurfacing and new and wider roads to relieve congestion in unincorporated Hillsborough.

Major projects include $27 million for the Apollo Beach Boulevard Overpass, nearly $48 million for the Big Bend Road and Interstate 75 Interchange and $12.5 million in sidewalk maintenance throughout the county.

The commission voted 6-1 to approve the plan, with Kevin Beckner dissenting.

Opponents asked why no money was allocated for buses, rail or ferries.

"If we don't plan for ways to move folks around in the urban core ... in something other than cars, we are going to have a serious problem," said Laura Lawson, chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization's Citizen Advisory Committee.

As a 10-year plan, commissioners said, it can't raise enough money for the long-term local commitments required to land major federal transit money.

County Administrator Mike Merrill called the new plan an interim step.

"Transit is a much bigger issue," Merrill said. "The 10-year time period really makes it difficult to draw down any serious federal money."

Said Commissioner Ken Hagan, "This is a starting point. We can, and likely will, amend the list going forward."

The next step, Merrill siad, is to identify funding sources for each project. He expects the process to take 60 days.

The vote comes months six months after the board rejected asking voters for a half-cent transportation sales tax for transportation that would have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for transit projects, including improved bus service and a rail line connecting downtown Tampa and the airport.

The rest of the $3.5 billion that the tax would have raised over 30 years was to be used for a backlog of road maintenance needs and other road projects.

Commissioner Sandy Murman voted against the sales tax referendum twice, but on Wednesday, she acknowledged it promised more benefits than the $600 million list the county settled on.

"We probably could've done a little bit more robust plan if we had done my plan or gone back to the half cent sales tax," Murman said.

In joining the 4-3 majority that rejected the tax, Murman floated her own alternative to use sources such as a gas tax and mobility fees to fund transportation. That plan also left little opportunity for transit.

The project list approved Wednesday is similar to one commissioners considered earlier this year with the sales tax, minus transit options. But many people who spoke at the meeting were concerned the list hadn't be properly vetted. Commissioners waived their board rules requiring a 10-day review period for the Planning Commission.

"There is no reason why you should slam through a roads-only proposition," said Kent Bailey, chairman of the local Sierra Club. "Slow this down. Take some time to hear from the people. A 10-day cooling off period is not unreasonable."

But the Planning Commission still had time to review the plan and did approve the projects, Executive Director Melissa Zornita told the audience Wednesday,

Said Commissioner Hagan, "Today's plan was essentially taken from what the board approved six months ago. It's essentially the same list we've had for three or four years."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.


  1. Residents and commuters are complaining about heavy traffic ever since the Florida Department of Transportation closed both northbound lanes on Nebraska Avenue just south of Hillsborough Avenue (U.S. 92) in Tampa on Jan. 6, to install new drainage pipes under Nebraska Avenue between Giddens Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue. [Florida Department of Transportation]
    Dr. Delay explores the latest backups aggravating Seminole Heights residents and commuters.
  2. Brandi Dobbins, 28, talks with bus operator Paul Robinson while boarding the PSTA bus at Grand Central Station in St. Petersburg, Florida on Thursday, January 23, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Elected officials see data as key to dealing with the problem, but systems for analyzing it are falling short.
  3. A look at the construction on the Tierra Verde bridge project which is the bridge between Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde islands on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 in St. Petersburg. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2021. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Dr. Delay takes a deep dive into the construction process for the $56.3 million State Road 679 and Bayway Bridge project .
  4. The Toyota recall covers certain 2011-2019 Corollas, the 2011 to 2013 Matrix, the 2012 through 2018 Avalon and the 2013 to 2018 Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. Pictured is a 2013 Avalon Limited.
    The problem could affect as many as 12.3 million vehicles in the U.S. made by six companies.
  5. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  6. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  7. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  8. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  9. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  10. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.