It’s all come down to the wire. Now that we’ve identified the issues at hand when it comes to transportation, explored various opportunities to help improve Hillsborough County’s transportation network, and have made the tough choices in how we want to fund those improvements; it’s time for the public to gather around and work together to find consensus on viable community transportation plan. In this fifth installment of This is Go Hillsborough, I will cover what was discussed during the four final regional meetings and telephone town hall. I will then go over what is next in the process and what might come out of the final decision from county leaders. Finally, in my sixth and final installment of this series, I will recap everything that I’ve gone over in these five blog posts and how we can apply what we’ve learned towards building a viable community transportation plan.
Although I was unable to attend the final set of meetings due to my working schedule and long distance from the meeting venues, I was still able to get a basic idea of what transpired during these meetings. While the presentation boards made a return, showing everything that has transpired so far in the Go Hillsborough public outreach process, what was different this time around was that citizens were able to sit down with facilitators from the county and discuss what would the best way to move ahead with building a viable community transportation plan that can be supported by a majority of county residents. While we all understand that not everyone is going to like the final plan and how it will be funded, it is crucial that everyone is able to come to a common ground in determining the best course that the county should take in how they should carry out the plan.
There is emerging consensus on voting for a new revenue source
From what has come out of the Making Choices portion of the Go Hillsborough public outreach process, many citizens are willing to support either a gas tax or a sales tax to help fund transportation needs. If approved, these added funds would be able to go towards roadway maintenance, transit improvements, pedestrian/bike facilities, and perhaps some new roads.
There is emerging consensus supporting a Gas Tax (70% said yes) or Sales Tax (67% said yes) to fund our transportation needs, with maintenance as the largest allocation, followed by transit, roads, and bike/ped.
The percentages say it all, people want more transportation choices, and they are willing to put their tax dollars towards it.
Conclusions drawn from these meetings
So now that we have an idea of what these last few meetings were about, let’s take a look at what was concluded.
While some areas of Hillsborough experienced balanced agreements that would place transit, roads, and ped/bike improvements on equal footing, other areas of the county were much more polarized. For instance, parts of Central Tampa seemed focus on transit-only improvements such as light rail, while citizens in southern Hillsborough wanted roadway maintenance to be top priority before beginning to improve bus services.
Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consultant for the Go Hillsborough process and plan, will be compiling results from the public outreach sessions in the coming weeks and will present their findings to county leaders at a Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group meeting on June 11. County leaders from there will decide on what is the best course of action as far as putting forth specific projects and how to fund them. Along the way, there will be several more public workshops to allow citizens to give their voice in what they want in the final plan. When the final plan is completed and finalized, that plan will be presented to the public along with the final method by which the plan will be funded. If a countywide referendum is required to help fund the plan, specifics of the referendum will be announced at the appropriate time.
Prior to the June 11th meeting, I will be putting together a sixth and final blog post in the This is Go Hillsborough blog series called What We’ve Learned. This post will summarize the entire Go Hillsborough public outreach process and provide an outlook as to what is next in the broader process to build a viable community transportation plan.
Below is the estimated timeline for the Go Hillsborough process: