TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – After an 8-hour meeting that started Wednesday and ended in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, transportation officials passed a key vote for the controversial Tampa Bay Express project, taking it one step closer to getting the $6 billion in funding it needs to move forward.
TBX would widen roads along I-275, I-75 and I-4 and add toll lanes to help ease thick congestion across the area, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
The plan has been met with strong resistance, mainly from residents whose homes and communities could be cleared if the plan is approved.
More than 170 people were scheduled to speak during the public hearing Wednesday night, meaning the vote might be delayed until early Thursday morning. The meeting was being held at the Hillsborough County Center at 601 East Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.
Michelle Cookson, with the advocacy group Sunshine Citizens, said FDOT has ignored the wants and needs of the citizens in the heart of the community, and should be looking to alternatives like mass transit, as well as ways to create more walkable, bike-friendly areas instead of encouraging suburban sprawl and reliance on automobiles by expanding roads.
Cookson adds that the people who are most impacted by the project are minority groups in the Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights areas. Claims that the TBX project discriminates against minorities has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
FDOT officials have said the new lanes will allow for more reliable travel times for drivers, although opponents argue they will only help people who can afford to pay for the tolls.