Despite the $2 million-and-growing advertising campaign for All For Transportation and the 1 cent, 14 percent sales tax increase proposed as a county charter amendment in Hillsborough County, the plan will increase congestion and not relieve it.
The evidence is hidden in plain sight in the details of the ballot amendment, which AFT conveniently avoids in its advocacy.
Let's start with the AFT Section 11.07 General Purpose Portion of their plan, which is where the road initiatives are specified:
Section 11.07. Uses of General Purpose Portion. For any Agency that the Clerk reasonably estimates will receive 5 percent or more of the Surtax Proceeds in a given calendar year, such Agency’s share of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended by the Agencies for the planning, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections, and public transportation (which, for purposes of this Section, may include any technological innovations such as autonomous vehicles and related infrastructure), to the extent permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1), and include expenditures in the following categories:
Cited directly from the plan, the funds in the General Purpose portion of the plan, which includes general road and safety, among the aforementioned categories mentioned in 11.07, totals nearly $8.5 billion, or 54% of the total taxes raised over 30 years.
The funding for the General Purpose category can also be used for "public transportation," or transit. Conversely, AFT explicitly requires the 45 percent dedicated to transit later in plan to only be used for transit and nothing else.
(1) Maintenance and Vulnerability Reduction. At least 20 percent of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on projects that: (i) improve, repair and maintain existing streets, roads, and bridges, including fixing potholes, or (ii) reduce congestion and transportation vulnerabilities.
Cited directly from the plan, this category is estimated at $1.7 billion, or 10.8 percent of the nearly $16 billion in the plan over the 30-year lifetime of the tax. This category is already largely funded with existing gas taxes, although we have our complaints with Hillsborough County's effectiveness with these monies. Which begs the question, what happens to these existing funds? A topic for another day.
(2) Congestion Reduction. At least 26 percent of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended to relieve rush hour bottlenecks and improve the flow of traffic on existing roads and streets and through intersections. Expenditures in the category described in this Section 11.07(2) may include projects that improve intersection capacity through the use of technology, the construction of new intersections, the redevelopment of existing intersections, and may include related infrastructure such as roundabouts and turn lanes. Projects described in the foregoing sentence do not constitute New Automobile Lane Capacity, as defined in Section 11.07(8) below.
Cited directly form the plan, this category should improve intersections, at an estimated cost of $2.2 billion, or 14 percent of the total plan. However, note they restrict increased automobile lane capacity.
(3) Transportation Safety Improvements. At least 27 percent of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended to promote transportation safety improvements on existing streets, roads and bridges.
Cited directly from the plan, "Safety" will cost nearly $2.3 billion or over 14.5 percent over 30 years.
(4) Transportation Network Improvements. At least 12 percent of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure and related improvements that make walking and biking safer, to the extent the foregoing is or is planned to become a part of the transportation network within any Agency’s jurisdiction, and to the extent permitted by F.S. § 212.055(1).
Cited directly from the plan, "Transportation Network," or a fancy word for bike paths and sidewalks, and more safety, is estimated to cost $1 billion, about 6.5 percent, over 30 years.
(5) Remaining Funds. Any remaining portions of the General Purpose Portion shall be expended on any project to improve transportation in the applicable Agency’s jurisdiction to the extent permitted by F.S § 212.055(1) and this Article.
Cited directly from the plan, the "Remaining" category, is estimated to cost over $1.2 billion, or 8.1 percent over 30 years. Note this category can be used for "any project to improve transportation," which would include any of the other categories above, as well as the transit categories (we will take those up in another post). The "Remaining" funds can only be used on those "permitted by F.S § 212.055(1) AND this Article". The Article means the entirety of the charter amendment that intentionally excludes new roads. The $16 billion tax hike does not and cannot fund any new road capacity - for 30 years.
(8) Limits on New Automobile Lane Capacity. Agencies are prohibited from expending any funds from the categories mandated by Section 11.07(1), (2) and (3) above on New Automobile Lane Capacity. For purposes of this Section 11.07(8), “New Automobile Lane Capacity” means projects that consist of (i) adding additional lanes for automobile traffic to existing roads or streets that are not related to intersection capacity improvement, or (ii) constructing new roads or streets.
Cited directly from the plan, sections 11.07 (1-3), or about $6.2 billion over 30 years, are restricted from actually increasing capacity. Recall section 11.07(2) Congestion Reduction, excludes new lane capacity, the best way to reduce congestion.
It is very likely the General Purpose 11.07(5) Remaining Funds of $1.2 billion will be used for transit projects, as they are highly prone to cost overruns.
We agree with AFT that an estimated 700,000 new residents are expected to move into Hillsborough County over the next 30 years -- with their cars. How many new cars will be on the road, you ask?
If we use the average household size of 2.64, Tampa's average of 1.49 cars per household, there will be an estimated 395,075 more cars on the road, or about 50 percent more than are now in Hillsborough due to the 700,000 new residents.
The Tampa transit advocates who authored the plan clearly gave a lot of thought to exactly what they want, which included explicitly ignoring new road capacity. This is a recipe for disastrous gridlock for Hillsborough's future.
Yet AFT must spend a minimum of $1 billion on bike paths and sidewalks, but could spend nothing on new roads.
For reference, here are just some of the failing (Level of Service "F") roads across Hillsborough County, from the latest MPO Level of Service Report that will not be fixed under this plan:
- Bloomingdale Ave
- Bearss Ave
- Big Bend Road
- Erlich Road
- Falkenburg Road
- Fletcher Ave
- Gunn Highway
- Lithia Pinecrest Road
- Lumsden Road
- Memorial Highway
- Sheldon Road
- Van Dyke Road
But it really gets worse.
AFT regularly mentions their plan is based on the Hillsborough County MPO Long Range Transportation Plan.
AFT has also advertised "Fixing 450 miles of dangerous streets".
That came directly from the MPO LRTP, page 69:
Projects in Level 2 1⁄2 include over 450 miles of “complete streets” treatment that will cover all priority corridors and 300 miles of new sidewalks.
Complete streets may include more sidewalks, more bike lanes, traffic calming, dedicated transit right of way, greenways, etc. Typically, the idea of complete streets are sold for safety, environmental and urban planning benefits. They are also the costliest, most expensive streets to build.
Complete Streets are not complete in increasing traffic throughout. In fact, they are based on creating more traffic congestion by slowing down and constraining traffic. Road diets, or actually reducing road capacity, is the term the MPO uses. Don't believe me? Check out the "illustrative" road diets from the MPO.
Where does the space for more and wider sidewalks, transit, trees, bike paths come from? By reducing and removing lanes available for the most popular mode of mobility: your car.
AFT is playing the "safety" card without recognizing the rest of the impacts of their plans. We are all about safety. In fact, we would advocate for even more safety with increased separation for bikes and pedestrians, with separate bike and pedestrian trails away from major roads.
There are few good outcomes involving automobiles and bikes or pedestrians regardless who is at fault. Yet there is no evidence there will be a major increase in bikes and pedestrians over the 30 years in this plan. But they are committed to spending billions regardless.
Not only does the AFT plan consciously ignore the need for new road capacity, it explicitly seeks to further constrict another 450 miles of road capacity with "Complete Streets." There is no magic here. Reducing capacity for the mode of transportation well over 90 percent of the residents of Hillsborough prefer will increase congestion.
A major overlooked impact of the AFT sales tax is the reduction in mobility fees. The majority of people in Hillsborough from the South of Kennedy urbanists to the ruralists in Lithia want the developers and new residents to pay for the new infrastructure. Hillsborough County has a mobility fee assessed for new construction to help with those costs. The basic formula for the mobility fee is
Net Mobility Fee = ((Cost to add road capacity) - (Credit non-impact fee revenue)) x Demand
The "non-impact fee revenue" includes sales tax revenue. Therefore, the AFT sales tax will reduce mobility fees by 30 percent or more. The developers will be paying less for the impact of new development and you will be paying more!
The AFT plan, hiding clearly in its language, will only increase congestion faster. They do this by over-allocating funds to transit, explicitly not funding increased road capacity, forcing "road diets" on 450 miles of complete streets, all while another 700,000 residents arrive with their 395,000 cars, while you pay more and wait more in traffic.
Sharon Calvert is a conservative activist and with her husband, Mark, writes the blog Eye on Tampa Bay.