House District 60 Republicans Jackie Toledo and Rebecca Smith both have a background in transportation, so it was natural that they be asked to weigh in on the Tampa Bay Express project (TBX), the controversial Florida Department of Transportation billion-dollar project that would add all-express toll lanes on I-275.
Speaking at the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee’s monthly meeting on Tuesday night at MOSI, Toledo said she was all in on the TBX, while Smith expressed some hesitancy.
“I am in support of TBX,” said Toledo, a civil engineer who has worked on transportation projects throughout her career in Tampa. “I know it’s going to be a tough decision for many people, but we have to make the tough decisions as elected officials.”
Smith has served as a board member for the Tampa/Hillsborough Expressway Authority since 2009, and recently stepped down as the chair as she entered the HD 60 contest.
“My concern with TBX, though I’m not discounting it, is that it has to fit into a greater master plan,” Smith said on Tuesday. “We must look at this long range, and make decisions supporting this. So I’ll be anxious to see the numbers on that.” Smith added that she knows some people who are disappointed in the project because she said that FDOT was no longer going to add a lane for high occupancy vehicles (HOV) on I-275.
Smith added that one thing that she is certain about regarding transportation is that it requires a comprehensive plan.
Toledo positioned herself as a critic of transit plans that require higher taxes, saying that the community needs more than Sharon Calvert and Ken Roberts (two prominent critics of the Go Hillsborough proposal) to fight such projects. “We need a person in Tallahassee fighting for resources for our area,” she said.
And she painted herself as an outsider in comparison to Smith, saying, “I didn’t receive a call from Tallahassee to run. I run because I care about community, I care about our future, and I care about the safety of our children.”
Smith bested Toledo in a straw poll taken between Hillsborough Republicans at the end of the evening. The winner between the two in August will likely face Democrat David Singer in November.
HD 60 includes all of South Tampa, much of south Hillsborough County, and Town N Country.