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TBX opponents set to host forum on toll road alternatives

The Florida Department of Transportation told the Tampa City Council on Thursday that its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan to add toll roads to 100 miles of bay area interstates will be re-evaluated during a two-year pause. The new plan should be ready by 2019. About a third of the original $6 billion TBX project consists of rebuilding the "Malfunction Junction" interchange of Interstates 4 and 275. [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times]
The Florida Department of Transportation told the Tampa City Council on Thursday that its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan to add toll roads to 100 miles of bay area interstates will be re-evaluated during a two-year pause. The new plan should be ready by 2019. About a third of the original $6 billion TBX project consists of rebuilding the "Malfunction Junction" interchange of Interstates 4 and 275. [SKIP O'ROURKE | Times]
Published Apr. 18, 2017

TAMPA — Opponents of the state's controversial Tampa Bay Express plan to add nearly 100 miles of toll lanes to Tampa Bay's highways will host a forum Tuesday night to discuss alternatives, such as light rail and rebuilding Interstate 275 as a street-level boulevard.

The Heights Urban Core Chamber is organizing the event, with the focus on maintaining community values while addressing transportation needs, said president Kimberly Overman. Overman and others are also part of the Stop TBX movement. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 111 at 6918 N Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights.

The presentation comes on the heels of a recent trip Overman and other community members took to St. Louis, Mo., with the Florida Department of Transportation. The trip was part of DOT's recent "reset" of the TBX project. State officials promised to hit the pause button on the controversial project and to reconsider other transportation options that the community might be more receptive to.

"FDOT had indicated all cards and tools are on the table," Overman said "We have to play with the entire deck to find solutions to our transportation needs."

That includes boulevarding — an option Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez and others have advocated for. Instead of rehabilitating or expanding the elevated freeway, other cities, such as San Francisco, have rebuilt their highways at street level. This allows the interstates to tie in with transit options, and instead of splitting neighborhoods as I-275 currently does, the boulevard can help reconnect local roads.

Urban designer and former University of South Florida graduate research assistant Joshua Frank will present his thesis, which is a comprehensive alternative to TBX, including light rail, boulevard design, commuter rail, zoning, planning and other smart growth philosophies. Frank will then take questions and open up the floor to community discussion.

Representatives from DOT, including Bill Jones who oversees TBX, are expected to attend to listen to community input.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.