Are there viable alternatives to highway congestion in Tampa?

Posted at 8:01 AM, Apr 19, 2017

Traffic seems inevitable these days. Most people can agree something has got to give - but what?

In St. Pete and Tampa - the Cross Bay Ferry is one of many transit ideas hoping to ease traffic - and a recent report says money should also be spent on public transportation like a rail system and enhancing the bus system.

"It's not a solution, it's not about getting every car off the road but it's a piece of a larger puzzle," said Benjamin Kirby, Communications Director for St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman,

The reportsays the US spends about $27 Billion a year on highway expansion - calling the I-4 expansion near Orlando a huge waste of taxpayer money and widening major highways won't fix congestion.

RELATED: Watchdog group lists I-4 expansion project as one of the worst ways to spend taxpayer dollars

"These highway projects just actually encourage people to drive even more than we already are," said Lisa Frank, with the Florida Consumer Action Network. 

But are any Bay area alternatives showing any promise? St. Pete officials say the Cross Bay ferry is working. Even though ridership is by far best on the weekends - from November to February 6,317 people took the ferry to work.  

"Deciding to change from getting into your car to driving over the bridge one way or another to getting in your car and driving to where the ferry docks and taking it over is a huge cultural shift for anyone no matter where they work," said Kirby.

But, it seems ridership on HART is down. According to its March status report, "fare revenues continue to track down with correlated ridership decreases."

FDOT says the I-4 project in Orlando will enhance the safety of the road and manage congestion.

In Tampa, officials are working on other options. Hart is looking to expand the street car system beyond the Channelside area. Tampa may also add commuter ferry routes in the future.