Fix our Roads, yes. BUT don’t abandon transit for TOLL ROADS

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With Hillsborough County beginning its Go Hillsborough outreach process, which I will be discussing very soon (I’m still working on the first of two blog posts on the subject), the Tea Party insiders and activists of Hillsborough County, led by Sharon Calvert, are turning up the heat on county officials and making their own ANTI-TRANSIT agenda LOUD AND CLEAR to voters.

Yes, we do need to fix our roads. But we can’t forget our other transportation needs.

I agree 100% that our roads need to be fixed. We have many roads throughout Hillsborough County that are in desperate need to repair. We also have many older bridges that are reaching the ends of their useful lives and need to be either retrofitted or entirely replaced. However, there needs to be a balanced approach that includes a mix of roadway funding, transit funding, and funding for bicycle/pedestrian facilities (i.e. bike lanes, multi-use trails, etc.). Without a balanced funding plan, we risk putting too much funds to fulfilling one need and little to none to another, and that’s something that we can’t afford to have happen. Unfortunately, as I will be discussing further in a moment, the Tea Party insiders and activists don’t want Hillsborough County to have that balanced funding plan. To them (the Tea Party insiders and activists), it’s all about fulfilling their own needs, and not the needs of the county.

The Calverts turn up the heat in lieu of Go Hillsborough.

This week, I stumbled up Fix Our Roads First on Facebook, which is supposedly aimed at telling county officials to “re-prioritize tax dollars to improving roads”. The page as of right now has over 70 “likes”, and I’m sure there will be more people heading in that direction in the coming months. I definitely won’t be surprised if a full blown website is eventually created to help push the Calverts’ agenda. Why do you ask? Because we have fellow Tea Party insider Tom Rask of neighboring Pinellas County helping out No Tax For Tracks Hillsborough, which is led by Sharon. Tom has already built several websites that have bashed local candidates who have gone against Tea Party views and principles, which you can read more about at www.whoistomrask.com. And of course, we can’t forget Barbara Haselden and her group from No Tax For Tracks Pinellas. They have been providing guidance to Sharon and her group and will stop at nothing to make sure that Go Hillsborough is a huge flop.

What it is that the Tea Party insiders REALLY want…

The Calverts argue that Hillsborough County has intentionally misdirected funds that were once dedicated to maintaining county roadways to other uses, such as transit. Frankly, I don’t believe what the Calverts are saying one bit, and I strongly believe that they are using the “Fix Our Roads First” argument as an underlying ploy to DEFUND, SLASH, AND PRIVATIZE Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and in-turn, direct county monies to furthering a suburban sprawl lifestyle that is full of drivers suffering through longer commutes and paying tolls. All of this only to benefit the Tea Party insiders, activists, politicians, and their supporters while the rest of our community suffers. It’s these same people that have been spewing misinformation through social media; from the already debunked “Empty Bus” myth to posting (sometimes false and/or biased) articles and commentary (such as commentaries from Cato Institute pundit Dr. Randall O’Toole) that are critical of public transit improvements and expansions.

We don’t need an east Hillsborough toll road!

The Calverts are among those in the Tampa Bay area who support building a sprawling tolled beltway, that has been proposed since the early to mid 2000s, to run through eastern Hillsborough County. This planned project, which has been shelved for now due to the recession, could cost at least $2 billion dollars to construct and may destroy environmentally sensitive lands while promoting sprawl throughout currently untouched areas of the county. Don’t be surprised if Governor Rick Scott, whom we all know as a Tea Party darling, suddenly announces funding for this project by the time he departs from the Governor’s Mansion in 2019.

I say, complete the Veterans Expressway!

At this rate, since it is increasingly becoming clear that the Tea Party insiders, activists, and politicians in Florida are pushing for less public transit and more toll roads, that we should lobby the state in completing the Veterans Expressway through Lutz and finally connect it to I-275. The Lutz community, where the Calverts reside, successfully killed the Veterans between Dale Mabry Hwy and I-275 back in the 80s/90s and have been opposed to ever having this portion of the highway built ever since. If Sharon is so desperate for a tolled beltway to travel through eastern Hillsborough, then why can’t we complete the northern leg? It only makes sense right? If Sharon wants Tampa Bay to have at least as many toll roads as Metro Orlando, then let’s start with completing the Veterans. We can make sure that an off-ramp goes right through her backyard.

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2 thoughts on “Fix our Roads, yes. BUT don’t abandon transit for TOLL ROADS”

  1. Are you a Transit Insider? If you are then you know that HART is funded through local property taxes, federal and state funds, farebox and advertising. That funding will continue so what defunding of HART are you referring to? Historically Hillsborough County funded our roads thru general revenue property taxes but stopped during the recession. As property revenues and other revenues have increased over the last several years in the county, none of that additional revenue has gone to roads and there’s no CIT money either for roads. All that is funding roads in 2015 is gas taxes and a very small amount of impact fees. So what has ACTUALLY been defunded in the county? Roads! Doesn’t HART get over $40 MILLION in local property tax revenue every year? With road funding of only $6.5 million for a county of 1100 square miles and 1.3 million people, we do need a more balanced transportation funding – that means more funding for roads that 95-98% use everyday.

    1. Hi Jerry,

      This is this the problem that is at hand, something that the Calverts continually deny. Since 2007, HART has not been able to efficiently and effectively maintain existing levels of bus service. They try real hard to do more with what they have, but it is not enough. Right now, HART is steadily losing buses. In 2010, before the failed referendum, HART was able to maintain roughly 200 buses in its fleet. Today, that number is down to about 175 because they retired the 1999-series buses (17 of them) and couldn’t afford to have them replaced. Then bus #2416 caught fire last year, forcing them to put a cutaway van on Route 200X. If there is another decrease in property taxes, more than likely, HART will have to slash service again, just like they did in 2007. And that next time may be a lot more brutal than the cutbacks in 2007 were.

      The Calverts argue that there is no critical funding gap with transit. For what I just explained, there indeed is such a funding gap. The Calverts simply want more money going to roads and less money going to transit. Sharon has made it utterly clear that she does not want to see another red cent go towards transit, and she is willing to do all she can to ensure that whatever funding HART has now, is taken away later, hence my point of DEFUND.

      Once all that money is taken away from HART, Sharon wants to sit back for a bit and watch HART have to SLASH more services because they suddenly don’t have the funds to even maintain basic transit services. Out the window goes weekend and late evening service, headways go from 30 minutes to an hour, and entire routes are eliminated. Then, to cap it all off, once the damage has been done, Sharon then wants to pitch 3 million arguments “justifying” PRIVATIZATION, and ensure that HART is contracted out to a private operator like TransDev or MV. Because she believes they can do better than the public administration.

      Is this what we want to see happen to HART? Think about it…

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