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Activist group “outraged” to hear of Tampa business establishment rallying around TBX

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

(UPDATED)

When it comes to public relations, it’s been an unfair fight to date between neighborhood activists and the Florida Dept. of Transportation regarding the Tampa Bay Express project. While FDOT send out representatives to local meetings to talk up the project, citizens have flooded public meetings over the past year to express their strong opposition to it.

TBX, as it’s better known as, is the $3.3 billion proposal by FODT that would add tolled express lanes to Interstate 275 from Bearss Avenue in Tampa to the Gateway region of St. Petersburg, and to I-4 and and I-75 as well.

Since being initially approved by the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization last summer, it continues to pickup opposition, mostly among the citizens who would be most affected in the Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and Ybor City sections of Tampa.

Among the few members of the public to ever speak up at public hearing for the project have been business officials, and on Monday a new coalition supporting the TBX announced the formation of “TBX Yes,”  equipped with a website to extoll the virtues on the plan.

The coalition include more than 20 business groups, including six separate Chamber of Commerce groups spread out across the region, from Brandon to Manatee counties.

The site lists 5 reasons to love the TBX:

1. Provides a solution for traffic today.

2. Creates a foundation for future transit

3. Gets You where You need to go faster

4. It’s good for business (and for you)

5. We can use it…or lose it

That last talking point is critical. FDOT officials have been vocally recently saying that if the project is delayed, FDOT could bypass Hillsborough County and use the $3.3 billion that is been earmarked for the project and spend it elsewhere.

Activists who oppose the TBX say that they are outraged that the business community has now lined up in opposition to the community.

“Upon reading the announcement today of a coalition in support of the Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project, we are shocked and outraged by the clear conflict of interest inherent in this effort and in particular at government-funded organizations’ participation,” said Michelle Cookson, with Sunshine Citizens.

“Instead of ignoring the desires of the community to stop the destruction of TBX and implement comprehensive multi-modal transportation, these government-funded groups should be working with the community and FDOT to develop a win-win solution that stresses supporting the revitalized urban core and creates systems that more effectively and efficiently move people and goods. The billions of dollars in the TBX project should be invested instead in comprehensive transportation systems that will help attract top talent, draw relocation by innovative firms and private sector investment, and drive unprecedented economic development.

The MPO will vote again on whether to include TBX in the their Transportation Improvement Plan next month.

“Tampa Bay Express is vital to the connectivity and competitiveness of Tampa Bay,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership in a statement “Our continued economic growth depends on an efficient, reliable transportation system to move goods and people throughout the region. With TBXyes, the region’s major business groups are standing together to support this project and ensure that our collective voice is heard loud and clear.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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