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Wheels Come Off Hillsborough Transit Planning

May 16, 2019 - 7:00am

Hillsborough County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization has concocted an impractical transit scheme that involves tearing down 10 miles of Interstate-275 in favor of a boulevard concept, a plan ranked last by a survey of Tampa Bay citizens. 

The unfathomable concept attempts to shoehorn a cumbersome light rail system onto an already congested area of Tampa and replace a roadway that is part of the U.S. interstate highway system.

The City of Tampa-centric proposal also defies the MPO’s own pronouncement that I-275, along with Interstate-4 and Interstate-75, is the most important transportation infrastructure to be protected from storm vulnerability. It is a major hurricane evacuation route for Tampa and Pinellas counties.

The concept envisions a grand corridor, a la the Champs-Elysses, with six to eight lanes of traffic, a two-way light rail system in the middle, and elaborate landscaping with sidewalks on the edges.

A light rail system would not only be useless in a hurricane but an impediment to evacuation as well. 

At the MPO’s last board meeting it voted unanimously to finance a study of this grand corridor beginning immediately north of Tampa at the intersection of I-4. The county MPO asserted the study was requested by the citizens, but it was its own advisory committee that made the request.  Most committee members oppose any improvement to I-275 and have actively campaigned against any plan from the Florida Department of Transportation. 

The interstate teardown was included as one of three scenarios in the MPO’s long range transportation planning.  It was chosen last by public responses and was soundly rejected in a three-county survey and for good reason.

In addition to being a vital evacuation route, I-275  is the major regional economic engine for Tampa Bay.  The highway is expected to carry in excess of 250,000 cars per day in 2045 with more than half the vehicles entering from the northernmost interchange in Hillsborough County and from Pasco County.  Those surveyed in Pasco and Pinellas ranked the boulevard very low, as did Hillsborough residents outside of Tampa. 

Despite this, the county commissioners and Tampa city officials said they did not believe the scenario ranking numbers. FDOT Secretary David Gwynn has attempted to explain the difficulties such a plan would entail and its costs, but it fell on deaf ears. This is an idea strictly engineered by the City of Tampa that adversely affects the entire region.

Driving this train is a small group of politicians, some of whom reside in the area but don’t believe the facts and a small group of citizens living in the area without any facts. They are attempting to slow or stop the improvements to this stretch of I-275. 

Improvements to I-275 planned by FDOT will markedly decrease congestion, increase safety, decrease injuries and fatalities, and increase the area’s economic performance over the 25-year life of the road. The MPO has already planned a “road to nowhere” (East-West Road), but is now encouraging a small group of citizens, at the risk and expense of the entire region, to clamor for an idea that is foolhardy at best and lethal at worst. 

Imagine a Champs Elysses-type corridor with light rail in the center ... as a hurricane evacuation route
Imagine a Champs Elysses-type corridor with light rail in the center ... as a hurricane evacuation route

Dr. Jim Davison is a conservative activist and noted expert on transit and tax matters. This column appears courtesy of Eye on Tampa Bay and The Tampa Bay Beat. 

Comments

Sounds like they are proposing to convert 275 to the current mess being bypassed on Gandy. Just like with bullet trains, show us a successful working example.

Noted expert on transit?!?!? Hahahahahaha. Davison is a fraud at best and lethal at worst

Hey Anon #2, Anon #1 here (who made the original post on this article). Where's your proof that he is a fraud? Or not an expert on transit? He's one of the few people that at least has the guts to speak up and call out the shenanigans that this idea is.

I remember when I first heard about the idea of tearing down a portion of 275 and replacing it with a boulevard. I went to the authors presentation to silently mock him and judge him for his ridiculousness. And then something happened: I listened to his presentation and set aside my personal feelings only to discover that once you look at the data the idea makes a lot of sense. Understandably, at first glance it seems ludicrous, but if you have the mental capacity to set aside your gut response and look at the facts, you'll discover its worth giving it a chance.

Topher, what facts? Please provide them. I-275 is a major corridor through the Tampa area, connecting Tampa and everything to the North to St. Petersburg. It also connects North Tampa to the City of Tampa, Ybor and South Tampa. Have you every tried driving the side roads? I have, it more then doubles the time to go about 10 miles. Also, if any plan requires walking, forget about it. Have you ever tried walking in Tampa in the summer? These people are in someone's pocket to propose this type of lunacy.

Well put, StevieD! Yeah, have these people forgotten just how hot it gets here in the summer, especially with the humidity?? I love the heat but even I have my limits. You know first sign of sweat, they'd be finding the nearest place with a/c! And would any of these commissioners or members of the MPO give up their air conditioned vehicles to brave walking during the summer months, chancing extreme heat and afternoon thunderstorms? I would bet not. But they would encourage us too! And I concur about the some of the side roads. It's mainly the major thoroughfares, such as Fowler (S.R. 582) and Fletcher (C.R. 582A) that can be just as bad during peak hours. You cannot get far when you have to deal with not only traffic, but multiple traffic lights, annoyingly placed bus stops, etc. I'd rather take my chance on the freeway, thank you very much. I'm not against all transit either, but it has to be done with logistics in mind. I feel transit needs to be worthwhile to the masses, and not cater to a small percentage of the population (i.e. bicyclists and pedestrians) as seems to be becoming the norm now.

Like the car salesmen say - "There's an ass for every seat!"

Great Idea, BUT ONLY if the "train's LAST STOP" is 75 miles east of "St Pete"..! (There's still time to divide Florida into TWO States, right at the northern border of Tampa,.. BEFORE SOUTH FLORIDA ENTIRELY drains the States "Tax Coffers" with any more "hair-brained ideas"..! )

Nice to know that someone out there feels the same about this insane plan! The MPO is gunning to push the Agenda that seems to be taking the nation by storm, along with the few in their pockets (i.e. the mastermind behind this whole scheme). Indeed, let the majority of the citizens be dammed. And not surprised about the City of Tampa falling in line with the out of whack views of the MPO, especially with their newly elected Mayor. Nope, they're wanting to tear down a section of freeway to accelerate their Agenda. Hey MPO, how about slowing down the insane amount of development around here instead?

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