White incorrectly told ABC Action News the plan does not include road improvements that would benefit drivers: “This is not a roads plan. There is little to anything in there for the suburban commuter.”
He says the transportation referendum won’t do anything for rural commuters, especially those driving Lithia-Pinecrest Road every day. It’s in his district.
“There’s no dedicated funding source for roads so the suburban commuters you see behind me in the background, they will experience little to no benefit,” White said.
The tax would raise $280 million annually and $9 billion over its 30-year life. Of that, 54 percent would be dedicated to road and safety projects including a 20 percent allocation to widening roads and expanding capacity.
Critics say that’s actually not the case. The referendum language is intentionally vague. It does not specifically direct funds to any individual projects and instead earmarks pots of money to transit and transportation in general.
Cities and Hillsborough County would split the allocated money for road projects and an oversight committee would oversee how those funds are used. The intended projects would come from a list of priorities developed by the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes road resurfacing, pothole repairs, added road capacity and road safety projects.
But because the language is vague, some worry that won’t end up being the case.
Supporters say the plan is a balanced measure aimed at meeting the needs of all Hillsborough County commuters whether they’re driving a personal vehicle or using public transportation.
Of the increased revenue, 45 percent would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to enhance existing countywide bus service and potentially add new transit options.
The plan has been heavily boosted by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik who, through his personal wealth and affiliated businesses, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the referendum.
In a press conference in mid-October, White called the initiative “a trojan horse” for downtown special interests and said it “expressly prohibits” added lane capacity.
The referendum excludes new highway capacity, which is typically funded through the Florida Department of Transportation.
The plan also received backing from all three Tampa Bay major league sports teams and, most recently, the New York Yankees.
Voting is already underway. Nearly 24 percent of Hillsborough County voters have already cast a ballot.
Election Day is Nov. 6.