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With All For Transportation Tax in limbo, county transportation leaders may have to delay important projects

All for Transportation
Posted at 5:10 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 18:16:39-04

As county leaders try to find a way to bring back the All For Transportation one-cent tax, ABC Action News wanted to go beyond the legal back-and-forth because this issue impacts anyone who spends money in Hillsborough County.

Because the state supreme court struck down the tax, leaders can't spend the money collected over the last two years. That's upwards of half a billion dollars of money taxpayers spent, sitting in limbo.

Now, transportation experts and advocates say it'll have a trickle-down effect on several projects meant to better our community.

RELATED: Hillsborough leaders look to put new one-cent sales tax on 2022 ballot for transportation projects

"This has been extensively researched for two decades. What are all the possible strategies to try to fund transportation projects and there really is not a better strategy," Executive Director of the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Beth Alden said.

The group was formerly known as the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Alden has been responsible for shaping the future of Hillsborough County's infrastructure since the 90s, and when the All For Transportation tax came along, her budget greatly increased.

"It was designated to go to a lot of our bread and butter needs," Alden said. "Things like maintenance were without the sales tax, we can only afford to resurface about 60% of our roads on time."

According to the TPO's 2045 long-range plan, the AFT tax would've allowed every road to be resurfaced on time. Other issues the surtax would've improved are delays on major roads by 80% because instead of spending $60 million a year, TPO would've had $102 million a year to spend.

All for Transportation Timeline 05-05-21

Alden said she's most concerned about delayed safety projects, like complete streets, where improvements could've prevented 50 severe crashes.

"We’re going to continue to have the high death rates and high rates of incapacitating injuries that we have had. And it just grieves me," Alden said.

The long-range plan that forecasted how the AFT tax would help also would've upgraded HART buses and expanded service routes.

"Right now our bus system reaches about as many jobs as the bus system in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And we have five times as many jobs as Chattanooga, Tennessee," Alden said.

In the meantime, Alden and her team are relying on state and federal grants.

"We’re certainly not leaving any stone unturned. But I have to be realistic with you about what we can accomplish with that," Alden said.

"We are going to see years of delay in projects that are critically needed throughout the County," All For Transportation Co-Founder Christina Barker said.

Barker's group led the charge for the surtax.

After garnering 77,000 petition signatures, getting the measure on the 2018 ballot and nearly 60% of voters approving it, AFT had done its job. But now it's back to square one.

"Since the problem is getting worse every day, we expect that in 2022 we'll have even more support than we did the first time around," Barker said.

Now, it's a waiting game to see what happens to the money sitting untouched in several escrow accounts.

ABC Action News found out the next hearing concerning this issue will be in late June.