Howard Frankland Bridge replacement could include rail and tolls

Public invited to weigh in on new bridge

TAMPA - The Howard Frankland Bridge is not just nearing the end of it's useful lifespan, it's also getting overcrowded with 142,000 vehicles crossing the span every day.

The Department of Transportation believes that contributes to the rollovers, fender benders and even car fires that  have become a regular hassle for Bay Area commuters  

That's why the Florida Department of Transportation is planning to replace the northbound span in the next decade and they're taking public comment this week on what to replace it with. The idea of including rail is bound to come up.

"We're talking about an investment in a new span that's going to be around for fifty years, right?" said former Tampa politician, Ed Turanchick.  
Turanchik has advocated for a more modern transportation system for so long his name is almost synonymous with "light rail".   But Turanchick says the economic realities require broader thinking.

"The problem ultimately is we just don't have enough money going into Transportation" said Turanchik explaining that the flow of gas taxes to pay for any kind of transportation is down  because high prices are slowing demand for gas. Meanwhile the political climate is aggressively opposed to any new taxes.

When the new span is built at a cost hovering around a half billion dollars depending on how many lanes are included, it's likely at least one lane will be reserved for commuters paying an automatic toll to zip across the Bay faster.

Turanchik for one is doubtful a  light rail line linking Tampa and St. Pete will be part of the new bridge, but he believes we should keep our options open.

"We shouldn't do light rail just because we don't have light rail, we should do light rail if it makes sense to do it."

The public hearings on this will be held Tuesday at the PSTA office in St. Petersburg and at the Tampa Marriott Westshore on Thursday. Both public events run from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

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