Eight days before a huge vote on whether the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s will approve of the Tampa Bay Express project to be added to the MPO”s Transportation Improvement Program, a coalition of heavy hitters in the local business world are urging the MPO to vote Yes on TBX.
“Threatening this project are opponents who argue that no new roads should be built in Tampa Bay,” says the letter, signed by 60 local CEO’s of some of the Tampa Bay area’s biggest companies. “Instead, they propose we focus exclusively on transit, which has prohibited any true compromise from taking place in this debate. Most transportation experts agree, however, that the solution to our transportation challenges will require a multi-modal approach, with a robust combination of roads, buses, and some type of rail technology. TBX, thankfully, represents committed dollars to help us solve a major piece of the transportation needs puzzle and, importantly, does NOT require a tax increase or the identification of a new revenue stream.”
The letter acknowledges the single biggest criticism of the controversial project – that the people who live in the neighborhoods that will be directly affected by the project’s footprint “have voiced some legitimate concerns.”
“While a more effective communications and outreach effort might have alleviated some of these issues, this is not a reason for the MPO to reject TBX outright,” says the letter. “It’s an opportunity for you to work with FDOT to ensure these concerns are resolved in a thoughtful and deliberate manner moving forward, and that the affected residents and businesses are treated fairly and compensated appropriately and by law.”
Over the weekend, the Tampa Bay Times reported that nearly 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that Florida’s Department of Transportation plans to demolish to make way for the project are black and Latino.
At $3.3 billion, the project is the most expensive public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area, and the FDOT has threatened to pull the money away from the region and spend it in other parts of Florida if it doesn’t get community support. That’s something that the CEO’s warn the MPO would be cataclysmic.
“Are you really prepared to turn away $3.3 billion in state and federal funds, and send them instead to Orlando, Jacksonville or South Florida? Are you prepared to send a message far and wide that Tampa Bay isn’t interested in fixing its dysfunctional interchanges, adding capacity or easing congestion on its highways? Are you prepared to endorse an ideological anti-road agenda, without local, state or federal funding on the immediate horizon to support alternative transit options?”
Among the CEO’s signing off on the letter include Channelside developer Jeff Vinik, Publix’ Barney Barnett, and the leaders of the Tampa Bay area’s three major professional sports franchises: Bryan Glazer from the Tampa Bay Bucs, Steve Griggs from the Lightning, and Matt Silverman from the Rays.
They join nearly 30 business and civic organizations that was created last month called TBXyes, headed by the Tampa Bay Partnership.
The MPO vote takes place next Wednesday, June 22, at 6 p.m. at the County Center on Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa, 2nd floor.