Community continues debate on adding toll lanes to I-275

Posted at 4:58 AM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 14:23:28-04

Adding toll lanes to I-275 is a highly debated issue - the Tampa bay Expressway, or TBX, was shelved temporarily last year when the Florida Department of Transportation told county commissioners that it was time to hit the reset button for two years while they gathered more public feedback.

Mit Patel, a member of the StopTBX coalition, says he and other groups around the area are recruiting new activists to voice concerns to the Metropolitan Planning Organization and FDOT. He says part of the movement is to come up with alternative transportation options to present.

Patel says his fight against the TBX started on North Lamar street.

"This church that we spent the last five years of renovating into the community center would be destroyed," said Patel, pointing to the Tampa heights Community Center.

The project would have bought and knocked down dozens of properties in its path, but Patel says that was just one of many things wrong with TBX.

The project would add toll lanes in the center of the existing highway, but Patel pointed out there wouldn't be any additional exits for folks in those lanes which he says would cause major back ups.

"Bigger, it's not necessarily better," he said. "That doesn't help with congestion at all!"

A study released last week described widening highways as a waste of tax payer money.

FDOT says it's taking these two years to research other successful highway projects across the country to see what works well, re-evaluate the impact on the community and respond to people - opening a two way conversation about transportation in the Tampa bay area.

The group, Sunshine citizens is getting in on the conversation to. They are holding a meeting May 3 at 6:30 p.m. that is open to the public to discuss what transportation options could work. The group says its open to all opinions and wants people for or against the TBX project to come out an voice their ideas. The meeting will be at the American Legion Post 111 in Seminole Heights (6918 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33604).

FDOT will be holding a peer exchange follow up from the previous meetings in April - that's set for Thursday May 4 at the FDOT District office (11201 McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612) at 2 p.m.

Sunshine Citizens will also hold a recruitment meeting on Thursday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at Brew Bus Brewing (4101 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33603).


Additional information from FDOT:

Research Best Practices

  • FDOT partnered with FHWA to conduct a peer exchange on April 11-12, 2017 to share best practices from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT’s) award-winning public involvement program for the I-64 reconstruction and other related projects in St. Louis’ urban areas.
  • Status: 36 representatives from FDOT, MoDOT, FHWA, as well as local agencies, interested citizens, business leaders, and MPO board members from the Tampa Bay area participated in the peer exchange. Key takeaways included listening to community values and concerns, minimizing ROW impacts, developing workforce partnerships (The Missouri Model), and multimodal planning. FDOT is holding a follow-up meeting with participants on May 4.

Reevaluate Community Impacts

  • FDOT is working with the FHWA to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement(SEIS) to reevaluate the social and environmental impacts of the proposed interstate improvements in the Downtown Interchange and the Westshore areas. FDOT will evaluate alternatives in response to community input.
  • SEIS Status: Notice of Intent (NOI) was published in the January 17, 2017 Federal Register. FHWA has circulated letters to federal agencies requesting their participation as a Cooperating or Participating Agency and responses are being received. FDOT and FHWA are making time to consider community ideas and get input on the project purpose and need.

Respond to the Community

  • FDOT is committed to fund, lead, and manage a series of independently facilitated Community  Working Groups (CWG) both in the urban core of Tampa and throughout the region. This is the  beginning of a broader conversation about regional transportation and opens a two-way dialog with the community.
  • Status: CWGs consist of a cross-section of residents, business organizations, and local agencies. There are 6 groups organized by geographic area, and CWG meetings will begin in late May 2017.