Tampa Bay Express project awaits final decision

Posted at 5:21 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 17:21:14-04
If there's one thing almost everyone in Tampa Bay can agree on, it's probably how much traffic you have to deal with.
Right now, the Florida Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans for a project it thinks could help: Tampa Bay Express, or TBX for short.
Driving toward downtown Tampa midday is a breeze, but as William Hunter was headed that way in the morning rush Tuesday, trying to travel just five minutes wasn't so easy.
"It took me half an hour from my house to this building," he said.
FDOT thinks it could cut down those kinds of travel times a lot by building Tampa Bay Express or TBX.  The series of tolled express lanes, separated from the main part of I-275, would aim to keep traffic moving at 45 miles an hour.
"We hope this region will adopt some sort of transit plan that will work with TBX," said Ed McKinney with FDOT District 7.
But many say TBX is deeply flawed. It would force some homes and businesses to be torn down, impacting historic neighborhoods that wouldn't have direct access to the new road.
"TBX wouldn't be available to us. It's not for us. We would not be able to use it because there are no entrances near us," Hunter said.
Hillsborough County's Metropolitan Planning Organization is carefully listening to all those concerns.
"As we're deliberating and making this decision, we need to weigh transportation value, economic values, against what the human cost is of approving this project," Metropolitan Planning Organization board member Kevin Beckner said.
Many in the community are continuing to make it clear that saying "no" to TBX is the start for them, and they hope the county will focus on more mass transit options going forward.
"We have to do better. We have to do more. We have to make sure CSX commuter rail is an option," Part Kemp of Seminole Heights said.
FDOT admits TBX is not the end all be all, and that the plan actually includes space for options like rail.
"It will have a 40 foot median in the center going east to west from Westshore all the way out to Polk County that will provide for future transit, whatever this region decides that transit is going to be," McKinney said.
The battle over TBX is far from over. The county's MPO gets a final summary from FDOT next month and will make its big vote on the project in June.