The Tampa City Council had a somewhat mixed reaction to a briefing they received on Thursday from officials from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) regarding specific improvements to improve congestion in the I-275/1-4 Interchange in downtown Tampa.
1- The project is one part of FDOT’s ambitious Tampa Bay Next project.
That plan was rebranded three years ago after initial reactions to a plan that would have included express toll lanes on I-275 north of downtown Tampa was met with strong opposition from neighborhood groups.
2 - The project that was discussed today would make a number of changes. Among them are:
A) Widen the one-lane exit ramp from southbound I-275 to I-4 from one lane to two lanes.
B) Add an exit ramp off I-275 North to 14th Street and 15th Street (and widen E. 13th Avenue to two lanes).
C) Widen the existing one-lane exit ramp from westbound 1-4 to northbound I-275 to two lanes.
D) Widen the existing two-lane exit ramp from westbound I-4 to southbound I-275 to three lanes.
E) Relocate downtown exits to improve spacing where I-4 splits and drivers exit to northbound I-275, southbound I-275 and downtown Tampa.
3 - The strongest opposition on Thursday came from those in the Ybor City community.
“We don’t want historic Ybor touched,” said Fran Costantino, who has lived and worked in East Ybor for more than twenty years.
The plan to expand 13th Avenue into two lanes is a “huge problem,” said Grant Connor, the past president of the Ybor City Development Corporation. “For FDOT to tell us that they’re going to use that road to move people is absolutely absurd.”
4 - The City Council repeats that they want more transit, less roads.
Last week in the Florida Supreme Court, the justices heard arguments on whether to uphold a 2018 voter-approved sales tax to fund transportation projects in Hillsborough County.
Councilman John Dingfelder expressed disappointment that FDOT members weren’t in Tallahassee last week fighting to support the push for mass transit.
But FDOT’s Ed McKinney pushed back.
“We’re not going to do that. We will never do that. That’s not the role of our agency,” he said. “Our agency is going to respond to the will of local officials, the local operator, via HART (the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority), via the city, via the county. “
5 - The City Council goes on record in opposition to toll lanes and for CSX lines to be used for rail.
The Council did officially go on the record as supporting HART’s negotiations with CSX for shared use of existing freight rail tracks to create a new rapid transit system, and to go on record as opposing any toll roads being built in Tampa.