Opponents of Tampa Bay Express now have a powerful ally who also wants to squash the $6 billion plan: Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.TBX construction is planned to be funded with the taxes, mostly gas taxes, that we've paid to the state and federal Highway Trust Fund. It's planned to be built with our hard earned tax dollars.
Miller said Monday that he will vote against the project known as TBX — a plan to add express toll lanes to Tampa Bay’s interstates — and there’s nothing that the Florida Department of Transportation can say at this point to change his mind.
|Les Miller, Chairman Hillsborough County Commission and MPO|
“I agree with the people that don’t want this and they don’t think they should have this in the neighborhood without a complete study done,” Miller said. “People just feel like it’s going to destroy their neighborhood. Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights. Even though they’re older they’re transforming into vibrant communities.”TBX has been studied, planned, and designed for almost 20 years. It's the only transportation project in the Tampa Bay area that has been planned to professional transportation standards at all.
The "destroy their neighborhood" is a red herring tossed out by the TBX opponents. The Florida DOT has planned and acquired most of the right of way for the expansion over the last 10 years or so. It has been in the public, yet the nearby affected communities are "transforming into vibrant communities" in spite of the ravages of TBX. Not to mention the interstate is already there, and has been there for over 50 years.
Or are they "transforming into vibrant communities" because of TBX and improved access to those communities?
Miller, also Chairman of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, will be voting on June 22 to give our money away, rather than add TBX to the MPO's Transportation Improvement Program.
“A 'no’ vote has dramatic consequences for our region,” said Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “The opportunity to assemble a large amount of transportation funds for our region in the future would probably be next to impossible.”Miller has also been an outspoken advocate for the troubled Go Hillsborough project, seeking to raise sales taxes in Hillsborough another 1/2 cent for up to 30 years. Go Hillsborough is a total mess as we've documented repeated here at the EyeOnTampaBay. It's a tax referendum with a wish list of projects. No studies, no plans, no designs, no engineering.
For example, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's treasured light rail project between downtown and the airport was estimated to cost $450 million. But that was just a guess. It could easily cost $1 billion. They have no ridership studies, fare recovery estimates, no route, no idea how many or what type of rail cars, where to place the stops, traffic and road crossing impacts,... or even how to route rails to and from the tight and complicated infrastructure around the airport. It does nothing to alleviate congestion for the vast majority of Hillsborough commuters. But he had to have it, and he got it included in Go Hillsborough.
Here we are. The chair of the BOCC and MPO wants to throw away the taxes you've paid to build the most well planned transportation project in years and we get nothing. Miller would rather tax you even more to build a political wish list of costly random projects that will do nothing.