I-TEAM: Traffic Relief: Who gets it first?

Posted at 12:19 AM, Feb 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 00:19:26-05

Analysts expect the amount of cars on roads to grow around the Tampa Bay area even faster than we've seen in recent years.

"The forecast is that we will be adding another 600,000.  So that starts to get into the numbers Miami-Dade has right now," said Beth Aldren, executive director of the Hillsborough's Metropolitian Planning Organization, or MPO.

Aldren and her team research where our traffic relief needs are and ranks them in priority.

They also make recommendations on where federal transportation money should go.

That hasn't been easy for Aldren who's been with MPO since 1999.  She says the federal government hit the brakes on transportation money.

"Is this the worst you've seen it in your time?  Yes. Historically it looks like we've had quite a bit of backlog and so our problem keeps getting bigger and bigger."

The I-Team is highlighting MPO's top 3 construction projects getting highest priority.


I-275, between Downtown Tampa and the Courtney Campbell Causeway.  

Florida's Department of Transportation is proposing 4 new toll ways here.


Memorial Highway, the south end of Veterans Expressway heading into the airport.

The plan is to put 2 express lanes here.


I-4 east of downtown over to 50th street.

There is a plan to also add two express lanes.


The price tag for all three projects? Nearly $2.5 billion.

Currently none of these projects are fully funded.

"The county has a challenge right now in coming up with funding to meet those needs."

Hillsborough Commissioners are looking at several ideas to pay for these and other major projects. So far they haven't been able to agree on much.

On the table, a half cent sales tax, increasing the gas tax, adding mobility fees, and more tolls.

David Wilson is on MPO's Citizen Advisory Committee.  He takes input from the community and says there are other areas that need major help beyond just the downtown Tampa area.

"I think there's a distinct difference between what the people want and the MPO staff being directed by their leaders and what they want at the same time. A lot of people are coming.  Just having more lanes is not going to be enough, ya know? We need to focus more on transit at this point."

One thing is for certain -- long lines of traffic like these aren't going away anytime soon.

Even if funding comes through on time for the MPO's top three projects, they predict it will take 5-10 years to complete.