TBX project passes after hours of public hearing

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Most would agree that traffic in and around Tampa Bay can be a nightmare. But what’s the solution? The State Department of Transportation has a plan on the table.

It’s called TBX or the Tampa Bay Express Project and it was up for debate Wednesday night and into the early morning hours Thursday at the Hillsborough County Center.

Public comment went until 1 a.m. on the issue and the project ended up passing with a vote of 12 to 4.

It was a huge turnout at the county government center Wednesday night. More than 175 people signed up to speak three minutes each and address the 16-member Metropolitan Planning Organization, which approved the project.

The TBX project adds express toll lanes on Interstate 275, Interstate 4, and Interstate 75, as well as overhauls the Howard Frankland Bridge northbound.

“There’s only so much highway capacity in this area and it’s not enough obviously,” said Vic Blue, who supports the plan.

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It’s pitted neighbor against neighbor. “These interstates were never meant to come through the middle of communities like this,” said Rick Fernandez.

That means the demolition of 130 homes and businesses in parts of Ybor City, Seminole Heights, and Tampa Heights.

“They blight communities,” Fernandez added. “There’s a very significant impact on minority populations.”

Supporters of TBX say it’s needed to bring in new business.

“The number one issue that comes up when we talk about recruiting companies is the lack of transportation infrastructure and investment in Tampa Bay,” said Rick Homans, the President & CEO of Tampa Bay Partnership.

But what would TBX do for the economy?

“Just with this project, there’s about 7,000 construction jobs tied to it but most importantly, it’s tied to the future growth of this community,” Homans said.

The plan is based on a 20-year-old study.

Jesseph lives in Tampa and he said these changes would leave many Tampa residents caught in the middle.

“All of the benefits go to people outside of the City of Tampa,” Homans said. “All the burdens fall on people who live in the City of Tampa.”

More than 80 businesses and leaders give it their full support. Still, the public remains divided. As for the homes and business that would be torn down, by law, the Florida Department of Transportation is supposed to notify them at least 60 days beforehand.

The toll lanes would range from 25 cents to $2 per mile.

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