1. Opinion

Ruth: The collision of road projects and neighborhoods

Published Feb. 10, 2016

A few days ago, a study produced by the nonprofit U.S. Public Research Group's Education Fund and the Frontier Group concluded what those of us who live here already know. The proposed Tampa Bay Express expansion of I-275 and I-4 is not the best road project on the planet.

If all goes according to "We are all such toast!" plans, the massive project will blow up neighborhoods, create additional toll lanes and completely rebuild and enlarge the Malfunction Junction I-275/I-4 interchange, whose original designer should be horse-whipped in the public square.

This will cost an estimate $3.3 billion, including $1.8 billion alone to improve Malfunction Junction, which of course will take years and years and years to complete, causing even more backups, traffic jams and &%$#@&-fueled congestion during the course of construction.

Other than all of that, what a bully idea the TBX nightmare will be. By the time all this stuff gets done, many of us (ahem) will be — dead.

Although work to make our lives more miserable isn't scheduled to start for a couple of years, there is growing community opposition to TBX, which while an admirable display of civic activism, probably will come to naught.

For several months, bicycle shop owner Jordan Miller has been conducting pedal-power tours of Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights to point out the various areas of the communities that will be imploded by TBX.

And last weekend, former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena led a rain-soaked demonstration in opposition to TBX.

Perhaps this is a variation on the old Vietnam War era line of having to destroy a village in order to save it, which didn't make any sense then, nor does it now.

A city's identity is the sum of the character of its neighborhoods.

As the TBX project moves forward (or in a sense, backward) it would displace large portions of historic Seminole and Tampa Heights along I-275. These are communities that just a few short years ago were considered low-rent dumps. Today they are teeming with remodeled homes, quaint shops and some of the city's trendier eateries.

The residents of the heights neighborhoods invested in their communities. They took risks. They believed in the future.

And now the Florida Department of Transportation wants to pave over many of those dreams and much of the region's history. And for what? To transform Malfunction Junction into Dysfunctional Depression Junction?

Perhaps if DOT could offer iron-clad assurances that once all the concrete gets poured the confluence of I-275 and I-4 will become a Brigadoon of hassle-free commuting, you could argue the loss of some 70 homes and 30 business were collateral damage in the pursuit of progress.

But it was all the traffic "experts" who gave us Malfunction Junction and years of navigating verrrrrry slowly through the current expansion of I-275. It was the "experts" who came up with the brilliant idea of reducing I-275 to two lanes coming off the Howard Frankland Bridge northbound at Kennedy Boulevard.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

And now it is the "experts" who reason adding toll lanes to the city's interstates, razing scores of home and businesses along the way and creating what we all know will be an endless time table to reconstruct one of the worst interchanges in the country will turn out to be wonderful.

Please, DOT, excuse a bit of lack of confidence to fix a problem you created.

The residents and business owners of the neighborhoods most immediately impacted by TBX have every right to be circumspect and a little peeved. And their concerns — and fears — will not easily be paved over.