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TBX foes to gather at County Center in Tampa tonight

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Back in August, the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization heard official testimony from over fifty people who strongly opposed the Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project that would add express lanes to I-275 and I-4. Several hundred other residents who live in the Seminole and Tampa Heights neighborhoods which would be directly affected by the plan also expressed their disapproval at the meeting.

Despite that intense opposition, however, the members of the MPO – with one exception – voted unanimously in including the TBX plan into it’s five-year transportation program (TIP) at the conclusion of that meeting.

Despite that vote, activists who remain opposed to the TBX haven’t given up expressing their opposition, and hundreds of them are expected to crowd into the Hillsborough County Center on Tuesday night for the MPO’s November meeting, a meeting that was moved to the evening due to requests by those activists.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by Sunshine Citizens, the coalition group formed in opposition to the TBX, the group says that are mobilizing citizens to “petition” the MPO to remove the TBX from the TIP.
The TBX would add one or two express lanes in either direction along I-275 in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and on sections of I-4. The cost to use the roads would vary depending on time of day, with fees higher during peak periods.

Activists refer to the express lanes as “Lexus Lanes,” saying the cost to use them would create an unfair situation with wealthy drivers easily navigating through traffic while other drivers remain stuck in traffic. The Florida Department of Transportation, who is pushing the plan, says that the express lanes would reduce stress on local highways.

It’s a plan favored by much of the business elite in Tampa, including the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Vinik, the Tampa Bay Lightning owner who plans on investing $1 billion to renovate the Channelside area.

FDOT has been the subject of intense criticism for their support of the project. Last week, Paul Steinman, the Florida Department of Transportation secretary for District 7, said  FDOT is willing to work with HART on a feasibility study on premium transit in Tampa. It could include bus rapid transit, light-rail or working with CSX, but it’s unknown at this time.

The MPO meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

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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