Hillsborough County voters approved a referendum to increase county sales tax by a penny for the next 30 years to raise much-needed funds for transportation improvements.
The money raised can be spent on a variety of projects, including improving roads and bridges, expanding transit options, fixing potholes, finding solutions to rush hour bottlenecks and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
All For Transportation, the group behind the referendum, said transportation is a “critical shortcoming” and is a major problem in Tampa Bay “because of a generation of underinvestment.”
“People were ready for change. People were ready to solve something,” chairman Tyler Hudson said.
More than 77,000 Hillsborough residents signed a petition to get the referendum on the ballot.
The 1 cent sales tax is estimated to generate about $280 million a year. Proponents of the referendum say it’s badly needed and long overdue.
It will be divided into three pots. About 54 percent will go toward roads and safety and will be shared by Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the City of Temple Terrace and Plant City. That money will be used to install computerized traffic lights, improving intersections, fixing potholes, resurfacing streets, safety and crash reduction and new walking and biking options.
Roughly 45 percent will go to expanding transit options for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART, which includes a more efficient bus service, express routes to connect commuters along with additional services to help more than 100,000 seniors and disabled citizens.
The final 1 percent of the pot of money voters approved for transportation will go toward administrative costs, an independent oversight committee and an annual audit.
Opponents say it won’t fix the problem and will hurt people on a fixed income.
With the increased sales tax, Hillsborough is tied for the highest sales tax of any county in the state.
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