Tampa Bay Sierra Club backs Hillsborough transportation initiative

Janelle Irwin TaylorOctober 24, 20184min

The Tampa Bay Sierra Club is backing the Hillsborough County transportation plan, the environmental group announced Tuesday. The All For Transportation referendum, Hillsborough County Referendum No. 2, would raise sales tax 1 percent to fund sweeping transportation and transit enhancements throughout the county.

“Hillsborough County has paid a high price to remain the only major metropolitan area in America without a viable public transportation system,” said Tampa Bay Sierra Club Chair Kent Bailey. “We have lost opportunities for economic growth, while the best and brightest look elsewhere for walkable, bicycle friendly communities with a modern public transit system. In addition, vehicle traffic has become the largest single source of carbon pollution in the Tampa Bay area.”  

The transportation initiative would raise about $280 million a year for 30 years, if approved. Of that, 45 percent would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority for improvements to the county’s existing bus service and other transit projects, 54 percent would go toward road projects and 1 percent would pay for oversight.

Critics of the plan say the new tax would not pay for new roads. That’s not true. The referendum language allows funding for new roads but precludes spending on highway projects, which is typically funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Potential uses include new roads, resurfacing, pothole repair, traffic technology, traffic congestion relief, and safety projects.

“In a historic move, nearly 80,000 Hillsborough County residents signed a petition to put this measure on the November ballot,” said All for Transportation volunteer Brain Willis. “They recognize the need, like Tampa Bay Sierra Club does, to address our traffic congestion, make our roads safer, improve our transit options and do it by instituting a plan that includes independent oversight and benefits everyone in the county no matter where they live.”

A recent poll showed the transportation initiative sailing to an easy victory. That’s despite past failures to implement transit taxes in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in 2010 and 2014, respectively.

There are several differences with the latest initiative. First, it’s a citizen-led ballot measure. Greenlight Pinellas and Moving Hillsborough Forward were both placed on the ballot by county commissioners.

The latest effort also includes robust transportation uses while the previous measures focused primarily on transit projects.

The Sierra Club is the latest in a growing list of groups to endorse the plan. Those include the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Upper Tampa Bay and South Tampa chambers of commerce, Visit Tampa Bay, the Tampa Bay Times, La Gaceta, Florida Sentinel, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, among others.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


  • Sharon Calvert

    October 24, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Another Irwin opinion piece that is anything but journalism. Irwin refuses to contact those who are formally opposing and then she decides what is true or not. That is not journalism. That is propaganda. There is billions mandated for costly trains/transit and not one penny of dedicated funding for new road capacity in the 30 year $16 Billion tax hike. She also refuses to acknowledge that the transit funding is locked in & recession proofed. There is NO reallocation “allowed” in this tax hike of the $7-8 Billion of transit funding for 30 years. It would require another referendum to be able to reallocate ANY of the transit funding. Irwin thinks locking in 45% of the $16 Billion ($7-8 Billion) or possible more over 30 years with no ability to change any of that transit funding is not “focused” on transit. There’s a reason the other funding category is called “General Purpose” and NOT Road-purposed. That funding portion can also be used for transit projects. Who wants to be stuck with another 30 year tax front loaded with huge amounts of debt? Irwin also refuses to acknowledge there is another transportation funding proposal presented to the county commissioners who now have the Citizens Advisory Committee reviewing that proposal does NOT require a tax hike, is much more flexible and does not include 5 pages of regulatory legalese gobbledygook. So much for the pro rail tax mantra of having “choices” and “options”. If Irwin was a real journalist she would be informing the public of this alternative funding proposal so the public could consider both options.

  • Barry Supranowicz

    October 28, 2018 at 8:59 am

    I’m from Hernando County. Just a few thoughts. I think those tax dollars would be more well spent if they were used on a far better transportation system, namely construction of a ‘greenway’ 20-foot-wide asphalt path system well off your roadways. Such pathways would allow citizens, especially the poor, elderly, disabled, stressed out and families to ‘get around’ in healthy de-stressing inexpensive ways via walking, use of regular and electric wheelchairs, bikes, and small golf carts (no gas powered vehicles allowed and a 20 mph speed limit). Make this system wide spread and designed well (I have a perfect schematic) and people will use it in mass. The Villages in Lake-Marion Counties uses such a system and half their population uses it as the way to get around. It’s a cost-effective healthy and practical way to allow citizens to get around. In our country we’ve built a great road system centered on the auto but have completely neglected the slower healthier more inexpensive pathway system to get around. Such pathway system, if constructed, would allow all of us an inexpensive way to get around while allowing us to exercise, breathe the fresh air, and de-stress all while allowing us to say ‘hi’ to our neighbors and build social bonds to our communities. Nothing worse than seeing the elderly and disabled and poor sit and waste away in their homes when they cannot use a car or have no other way to get around. Bus systems are always changing routes and days of service and are almost always never on time. And they require money to use (like a toll road). We have such beautiful communities on the West Coast of Florida. It’s a shame we don’t have a ‘greenway’ system of paths for folks to get around to really enjoy them. Just a thought.

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