Hillsborough TPO Executive Director Beth Alden talks about transportation funding at Café con Tampa

On Friday mornings, city and neighborhood leaders regularly meet at the Oxford Exchange on West Kennedy Boulevard for Café con Tampa, a series of lectures focused on important issues in our region.

This Friday, Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization executive director Beth Alden appears to be talking about the transportation funding backlogs the county and Tampa face. With a one-cent transportation sales tax back on the November ballot, Café con Tampa draws its biggest crowd since COVID began.

During his presentation, Alden does not advocate increasing the sales tax. Instead, she details two funding scenarios in the long-term transportation planning document passed countywide: one with and one without the 1% transportation sales tax approved by voters in 2018. , before a judge ruled that the county’s citizen-focused charter amendment improperly removed the county. Decision-making power of the Commission on the use of public funds.

“The officially adopted plan includes a one-cent sales tax that would address maintenance, safety and traffic management technology, the bus system, greenways, and still has funds we could use for road widening in targeted areas. areas and fixed guideway transit in targeted areas,” says Alden. “This long-term plan is based on what people have been telling us for years that they want.”

Without the levy, about two-thirds of the Long-Term Transportation Plan‘s spending goes to the Strategic Intermodal System, the Priority List of Transportation Facilities Important to the Economy and Mobility, and the State Highway System (SHS ).

Alden provides an unvarnished look at the current state of transportation funding. Maintaining and upgrading roads to current standards is a challenge across the county, she said. Current transportation funding is insufficient to ensure a state of good repair and significantly reduce accident rates, let alone upgrade technology, expand access to public transit and walking/cycling, or widen highways.

“Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa only resurface about 1 percent of their track miles per year,” Alden says. “That means you could be waiting over 70 years for your road to be redone and by then it will have collapsed and will have to be rebuilt at double the cost. We have about 900 bridges in this county and about 300 belong to the county Of those owned by the county, approximately 91% will no longer be rated in good condition by 2030. Forty-one percent of our buses are not in good condition at this time. There are 115 miles of critical roads vulnerable to surges. storm surges and inland flooding There are strategies identified to make them less vulnerable We need to strengthen the maintenance budget.

Alden also gives insight into the dangerous situation on the roads in the area.

“We had over 250 road deaths last year, about the same as New York, despite having six times the population,” she says. “We know how to solve this problem. We just don’t have the funding.

Alden stresses that the necessary funding will not come from local governments tightening their belts or cutting other areas of the budget. The magnitude of the situation requires additional funding.

“The numbers indicate that for road resurfacing we need about five times the current budget,” says Alden. “Security, we need about three times the current budget; traffic management, about twice; bus service, two to three times the current budget.

Civil engineer and transportation enthusiast Jim Shirk frequented Café con Tampa. He often rides a bicycle as a means of transportation.

“It’s scary to ride a bike; we don’t have the infrastructure here,” says Shirk. “Our city is car-centric and we support funding for transit and safety. It looks like the Legislative Assembly is only focused on expanding highways. We must be the source of change. There’s a good chance the penny tax will pass, but we need to spend it on public transit, not on expanding roads.

A new report says Tampa Bay pedestrians are also dealing with the dangerous situation Shirk sees on his bike. Smart Growth America’s “Dangerous by Design 22” report ranks Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater as the nation’s fourth most dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians.

In a phone interview while on vacation in Amsterdam, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp compares that city’s multimodal mobility network to the situation back home.

“The city limits of Amsterdam and the urban area combined have around 1.5 million inhabitants, like us,” says Kemp. “There are many transport options in this cycling city. There are also trams, a metro, surface trains and ferries. For such a large metropolitan area, Hillsborough County is the most underfunded county in the country. Our public transport infrastructure is barely on life support. We only have about 30 bus lines and 19 of them only run hourly. There is a lack of practicability and safety for bicycles.

Kemp says Tampa’s continued boom increases the need.

“There is a desperate need for infrastructure to keep up with the frenetic pace of growth. The referendum is a step in the right direction for our public transit, our pathways and our sidewalks. We don’t need to compete with European cities; we can just focus on creating a good quality of life, making this place a nice place to live and visit.

2018 Everything for the money of transport

As the Hillsborough County Commission placed a one-cent transportation sales tax on the November ballot, a judge ruled that the roughly $562 million collected before the sales tax was invalidated All for Transportation in 2018 will be spent on transportation projects in Hillsborough County. While the money will be spent locally, decision-making on spending will take place in Tallahassee, with the State Budget Legislative Committee making recommendations to the Revenue Department on how to spend the revenue.

For more information on the speaker series, go to Cafe con Tampa.
To read the Countywide Long Range Transportation Planning document, go to Long Range Transportation Plan 2045.

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