An essential part of the Libertarian ideal is a belief that for public services, consumers should pay as they go. The preference is user fees instead of taxes.
As we well know, Gov. Rick Scott has strong Libertarian leanings.
Keep that in mind while considering the 12-4 vote by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization to proceed with the next phase of the controversial $3.3 billion Tampa Bay Express transportation proposal, better known as TBX.
Protesters outnumbered supporters by about 2-to-1 at a meeting that lasted seven hours, wrapping up at around 2 a.m. Thursday.
TBX is a proposal by the Florida Department of Transportation to build 90 miles of so-called “express lanes” throughout the five-county Tampa Bay area. It is a project that requires MPO approval.
The FDOT website explains the reasoning behind what it calls “A New Choice for A Better Commute.”
“Express lanes are new lanes added to existing interstate routes. Simply, these new lanes work as toll roads in the middle of interstates,” the FDOT says. “They are separate, and only these new ones are tolled. The amount you pay goes up and down in real time depending on traffic conditions.”
Tolls can easily reach $10 or much higher in peak times, which is really the only time most people would need them. Even FDOT concedes the toll lanes aren’t designed for daily use by commuters.
What this means, realistically, is that commuters will still be frustrated by clogged roads, while more affluent drivers will zip by in nicer cars than the ones owned by most people.
So why go through this, especially with the staunch opposition by neighborhood groups like those in the Seminole Heights section of Tampa?
I think we already know the answer.
The business community has strongly supported TBX. Rick Scott is all about business. What better way to execute the governor’s agenda than to build something Libertarians would approve, while making business leaders happy?
Toll roads are nothing new in Florida, of course. Tampa area commuters have begun to get used to them on the Selmon and Veterans expressways. It seems like every new road in Orlando comes with a toll, and express lanes are now expanding in South Florida, Jacksonville and other locations.
This is different, though. TBX takes the toll concept to a new level.
You might think expanding public transportation is a better option, but the state isn’t so interested. Sure, that’s short-sighted – especially in Florida’s growth projections. But Libertarians say public transportation is a state-sanctioned monopoly; usually, the conversation ends there.
So this is what we get.
I also think we can safely conclude that under this governor, the state doesn’t care much about public opposition to projects like TBX. Pay as you go, period.
And as we look down the road, so to speak, a speedy commute will become reality — mostly for those who can afford it.
Everyone else can suck exhaust fumes.
Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decadelong search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.