Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tell the Hillsborough MPO: We Want Our Interstates Expanded Not Torn Down















Tampa, Fl From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

I-275 is used by over 250K people everyday and serves as a major evacuation route in Tampa Bay.

I-275 is part of Florida's Strategic Intermodal System (SIS). The SIS is Florida’s high priority network of transportation facilities important to the state's economy and mobility. The Governor and Legislature established the SIS in 2003 to focus the state's limited transportation resources on the facilities most significant for interregional, interstate, and international travel. The SIS is the state's highest priority for transportation capacity investments and a primary focus for implementing the Florida Transportation Plan (FTP), the state's long-range transportation vision and policy plan.
The Transportation Management Area (TMA) leadership group, that includes the MPO's of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, include the interstate expansion projects (including the northern corridor of I-275) as top Tampa Bay regional priorities for the TMA.


At the TMA meeting the Eye attended yesterday, this was stated by each MPO:  
Pasco County commissioner Kathryn Starkey read a Resolution passed by Pasco County supporting FDOT's I-275 expansion projects and stated those projects are in Pasco's Transportation Improvement Plan 
Forward Pinellas Director Whit Blanton stated a letter of support for FDOT's I-275 expansion projects was being sent that day to FDOT District 7 Secretary David Gwynn and the projects were in Pinellas County's Transportation Improvement Plan 
Hillsborough County MPO Director Beth Alden stated that all the regional priorities including FDOT's I-275 expansion projects were included in Hillsborough's Transportation Improvement Plan
Pinellas County commissioner Janet Long even asked Alden, who was sitting next to countywide commissioners Pat Kemp and Kimberly Overman, to clarify the I-275 projects were in Hillsborough County's Transportation Improvement Plan (that will be voted on Tuesday June 11) and Alden stated yes.

That sensible position by the region's MPO's helps ensure that Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties will receive its "fair share" of FDOT funding for all interstate expansion and improvements projects much needed in the growing Tampa Bay region.

So this Tampa Bay Times article is no surprise to most everyone:
A survey of about 400 Hillsborough residents shows strong support for widening Interstate 275 from downtown to Bearss Avenue and adding a lane on the flyover ramp to Interstate 4. 
Approval from 84 percent of those surveyed is “exceptionally high and consistent, signaling that there is a clear mandate for steps to be taken,” according to a presentation from Paul Fallon of Florida Opinion Research, which conducted the survey. It has an estimated margin of error of about 5 percent.
Except the urbanists who want to tear down our interstates.

We posted here about Sunshine Citizens, a transit advocacy group, who wants to tear down I-275 and replace it with a costly, dangerous street level light rail. They conflate the AFT local sales tax with interstate improvements funded for by state/federal gas taxes we already pay for.

After the above Times article was published, Sunshine Citizens immediately took to their Facebook with a scorched earth "Call for Action". They are "demanding" the Hillsborough MPO stop all further interstate expansion work."

Sunshine Citizens is very misinformed if they think the MPO Board only represents them in a county of 1.4 million people. And Hillsborough County is not an island unto itself who can just disregard their neighbors in Pinellas or Pasco.
On May 22 at 2:42pm, Michelle Cookson, a leader of the Sunshine Citizens transit advocacy group, posted this comment on their Facebook page.


Cookson wants more congestion created to make car travel painful. She wants to intentionally make the lives of the 98% of us who use our roads everyday and the lives of the over 250K people who use I-275 everyday miserable.

The Eye has spoken to people throughout the Tampa Bay area and NO ONE supports tearing down any part of I-275. With population expected to grow by 600K in Hillsborough and by a million or more in the Tampa Bay area over the next 25-30 years, they all want our interstates expanded.

And the poll above reflects that as a vast majority wants I-275 to be expanded and capacity added.

As population has grown, I-275 has become more congested and malfunction junction has become a more dangerous bottleneck.

FDOT has had plans to widen I-275 and fix malfunction junction for over 20 years. The projects needed funding. 

A few years ago we captured this from an article the now defunct Tampa Tribune published 10 years ago in an article they titled 'Malfunction' Moniker From Past Still Describes Revamped Junction no longer found online.
A state priority should be to move traffic faster through the intersection as welcomed improvements to I-275 and I-4 funnel more cars and trucks into the mix. 
Surely if the state can spare hundreds of millions of dollars to help private, profitable railroads improve their freight tracks through the boondocks, it can find enough money to add a few lanes to an urban junction used by tens of millions of cars and trucks a year.
The constant shortfall of construction money suggests the local legislative delegation needs to do a better job advocating for local transportation improvements. And it suggests that Florida's congressional delegation needs to make more noise about the unfair return on federal gas taxes collected in Florida. 
For decades Florida drivers have helped pay for highway earmarks in states with much less traffic and growth. But most important, every political and civic leader in Tampa should agree that packing four lanes of high-speed traffic into three lanes is an intolerable way to treat ourselves and to welcome our guests. If, instead of playing petty political games, our state and local leaders would agree on top priorities such as fixing the junction, it wouldn't now face another decade of malfunction.
This 2017 Tampa Bay Business Journal article reported "Tampa’s “Malfunction Junction” is among one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, according to an analysis of GPS data from freight trucks."

FDOT has spent untold amounts of their time, money and resources over the last few years trying to work with Sunshine Citizens to mitigate and minimize their concerns but to no avail. The urbanists are simply unreasonable and uncompromising.

Cookson, Sunshine Citizens and their urbanists allies started by opposing FDOT's TBX plans to add two managed toll lanes of capacity in each direction to the I-275 north corridor.

Cookson and her Sunshine Citizens opposition led FDOT to delay for 4 years interstate improvements in Hillsborough County.

That delay caused FDOT to send $600 million of state/federal gas tax monies we already pay, that was targeted for Hillsborough County, to go to Orlando and Central Florida for their I-4 expansion projects.

Cookson and her Sunshine Citizens were so gleeful and emboldened by FDOT's delay that they moved their position from opposing FDOT's original TBX expansion plans to now stopping all interstate expansion projects and tearing down I-275 north of downtown.

But FDOT did change their plans.

FDOT now plans to expand the north corridor of I-275 within the footprint it already owns. They will add a general lane of traffic of added capacity in each direction, add capacity to malfunction junction and make safety improvements in that interstate corridor.

With their "victim" narrative stale, Sunshine Citizens can no longer hide behind a "veil of victimhood". With the veil pulled back, the urbanists true agenda has been exposed which is a rabid uncompromising ideological opposition to roads, highways and interstates and those who use them.

FDOT negotiated in good faith while Sunshine Citizens never did. Sunshine Citizens moved the goal posts to now wanting to tear down the interstate and make car travel painful. They are irrational.

Public policy must consider everyone who is impacted by it. It should not be based on irrational selfishness by a small vocal group, who refuses to compromise and shows so much disdain and disregard for the vast majority of others who use I-275 and want it expanded.

The Hillsborough MPO Board, which includes 10 elected officials who can be held accountable, will hold a Public Hearing
 on Tuesday, June 11th at 6pm at County Center. 

Contact the MPO and tell them you support expanding our interstates and oppose tearing any part of them down. Request the MPO keep FDOT's I-275 interstate projects in their 5 year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The entire Tampa Bay region risks losing FDOT interstate improvement funding for years or decades if these projects get delayed again or the Hillsborough MPO irrationally removes them from their TIP. That FDOT funding is state/federal gas taxes we already pay for.

Five county commissioners, who can be held accountable, will be voting Tuesday on the TIP.

Three countywide commissioners who must represent ALL their constituents in the county and not just one small group, Kimberly Overman, Pat Kemp and Mariella Smith, will be voting as well as
BOCC Chair and MPO Chair Commissioner Les Miller and Commissioner Ken Hagan.

These county commissioners can be contacted individually at: https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/government/board-of-county-commissioners
Citizens can participate in the MPO public hearing in numerous ways to:  
·                     Attend in person and sign up to speak 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
·                     Email comments in advance to mpo@plancom.org
·                     Comment in advance at Facebook.com/HillsboroughMPO
·                     Leave a voice message in advance at 813-273-3774 ext. 369
Common sense must prevail over ideology on Tuesday!

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Related links:
https://eyeontampabay.podbean.com/mf/play/n7qmvb/Eye_on_TB_Podcast_1_6-1-19_converted.mp3

Tear Down this Interstate!

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 10:12 AM 

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Costly Disaster! Tearing Down Interstates, the AFT Rail Tax and Train Rides for "Free"


Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert

Sunshine Citizens is registered in Florida as a “501c3 nonprofit" and has a federal tax exempt status from the IRS. 

Sunshine Citizens website reflects they are a transit "advocacy” group who wants to reduce "our dependence on the automobile". And in reality, they are an activist group who advocates for their urbanist agenda.

Sunshine Citizens has been “actively” opposing FDOT’s plans to expand and improve I-275 and fix malfunction junction since they were created in 2015. They were successful in causing FDOT to delay planned and funded interstate improvements in 2017. 

That delay caused Hillsborough County to "lose" hundreds of millions of state/federal gas tax dollars  slated to go to Hillsborough County interstate improvements, to go elsewhere. FDOT redirected those millions already paid by taxpayers, to Orlando and Central Florida for their massive interstate expansion projects. 
Now, Sunshine Citizens not only opposes interstate expansion projects, they are “advocating” to tear down the north corridor of I-275 and replace it with a street level Boulevard with a train. 
I-275 is used by over 250K people everyday. It serves as a major evacuation route in Tampa Bay. It is a major commuter corridor for those who live and work in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. It is a major corridor for students going to USF, cancer patients going to Moffitt Cancer Center, tourists going to Busch Gardens, patients going to Byrd Alzheimer Center and veterans going to the VA Hospital.

I-275 is a major mobility corridor that moves hundreds of thousands of people, goods and services everyday.

Sunshine Citizens does not care about all that because they are ideologically driven. They are transit advocates driven by an ideology of "no more roads" with an uncompromising selfish attitude that it's their way or the highway (no pun intended). 

Sunshine Citizens posted their "Vision" to replace I-275 with a street level light rail Boulevard on their Facebook page a few weeks ago. Light rail is very slow averaging less than 20 miles per hour. All of those transit stations along their proposed light rail Boulevard will be noisy street level rail crossings that stop traffic creating more congestion. 

Sunshine Citizens Vision
Traffic seeps like water so residents and streets in nearby neighborhoods will be negatively impacted with more traffic on their neighborhood roads not meant for such heavy volume. Those neighborhood roads will become more dangerous and less safe.  
Sunshine Citizens cannot wishfully or magically wall off traffic. 

Sunshine Citizens wants costly rail everywhere. Their proposed CSX commuter rail lines and the Streetcar are street level trains too. 

Daily street level passenger railroad crossings are some of the most dangerous and accident prone in the country. The number of accidents and fatalities associated with SunRail since it began in 2014 is atrocious. 

Sunshine Citizens "Vision" of tearing down interstates and putting street level rail everywhere will create havoc and gridlock and danger zones in Hillsborough County. 

With a deficit of major east west roads in Hillsborough County, street level transit stations will be stopping traffic all day. The cost to taxpayers and the misery Sunshine Citizens wants to place on the hundreds of thousands (and growing) users of I-275 everyday will be tremendous. 
  
Many Sunshine Citizens activists cross pollinate with All for Transportation activists. The Treasurer of Sunshine Citizens, again a 501c3 nonprofit granted tax exempt status, is Kevin O'Hare. Kevin O’Hare, is currently employed by the All for Transportation (AFT) Political Action Committee as their Outreach Director. He worked directly on AFT's tax hike referendum campaign last year.


From Kevin O'Hare's LinkedIn

Another Sunshine Citizens activist Rick Fernandez, President of the Tampa Heights Civic Association who also actively supported the AFT rail tax, was appointed to AFT’s Independent Oversight Committee (IOC) earlier this year by the city of Tampa. The IOC is the misnamed committee that AFT gave overall approval authority for approving all projects funded by the AFT rail tax.

This Tampa Bay Times article included the picture below of Fernandez protesting interstate expansion projects in 2016.

Picture of Rick Fernandez
courtesy of Zack Wittman at the Tampa Bay Times 
Imagine the exhaust fumes with increased congestion created by tearing down I-275 and all the cars stopped idling at street level railroad crossings everyday. Fernandez may need a bigger mask.

Tyler Hudson, the Chair of All for Transportation, was on the Board of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, a Sunshine Citizens coalition partner, during the AFT tax hike referendum campaign.

With such cozy relationships, it makes one wonder if there's collaboration and coordination going on between the All for Transportation PAC and the Sunshine Citizens nonprofit.

The genesis for the Sunshine Citizens interstate tear down "Vision" came from a thesis written by a USF architecture graduate student Joshua Frank. Frank, who is not an engineer or a transportation expert, stated in this recent article:

“We don’t want any more roads,” said Frank. “We want to shift toward transit and smarter people who will support transit.”

Frank, a USF graduate student with little to no practical experience thinks he knows best. One cannot find a more condescending and elitist attitude than this.

Less than 2% use transit in Hillsborough County. Frank and his Sunshine Citizen allies want to spend untold billions of taxpayer dollars on Frank's social engineering vision. 

Sunshine Citizens wants to use the new bucket of AFT billions to pay for all the rail projects.

And HART's new CEO, Benjamin Limmer, wants to create a big, new redistribution giveaway program and spend AFT rail tax dollars on train rides for "free".

We warned last year that the $16 Billion AFT tax hike was a rail tax but its much worse.

It's tearing down major interstates, costly rail everywhere and a "free" train ride giveaway program.

Is that what voters voted for last November?

Posted by Sharon Calvert at 12:54 PM 

This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.


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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Genshaft’s Gift to USF Pride or Guilt?

Like many public and private university leaders, Genshaft saw the student-loan  program as a cash cow. 


Tampa Bay, Fl 
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD 
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.


Judy Genshaft resigned as USF President in May her announcement package wrapped in a $20 Million-dollar monument to her time at USF. You can get some detail from Tampa Bay Times writer Megan Reeves: Judy Genshaft gives $20 million to USF to build a new honors college.
I am sure the Honors College will pander to the wealthy and political connected who can benefit the University in some way.
Genshaft’s salary, bonuses and benefits have topped over $1 million annually for the last few years making her a viable candidate for a poster explaining why college tuitions have gone through the roof.
Not much is being said about Gensaft’s overseeing of steady rising in state college tuition cost, ill-prepared students for today's careers, and graduates loaded with unconscionable levels of student debt, while University expenditures on useless programs, degrees and buildings went through the roof.
Like many public and private university leaders, Genshaft saw the student-loan  program as a cash cow to be milked to produce an over-inflated  academic environment and failed to see that the financial establishment in this country had found an insidious way to dupe the academic elite into a never-ending  spiral of useless degrees at ever growing costs, mortgaging the future of their students and some would say our society.
Genshaft was a money miracle, admired by her Board for fund her raising prowess and social correctness. Genshaft ran with wealthy and the elite all capable of paying for their children's education, and totally oblivious or completely uncaring about the thousands of USF graduates who graduated from her “fine” institution of higher learning with a mountain of debt and in many cases a degree just barely worth being a fish wrapper.
I’ll quote a few of the last lines of Megan Reeves article:
Zimmerman, the board of Trustees chairman. Then he turned to Genshaft: “You’ve accomplished so much yet continue to do more and more and more each and every day. Today your leadership and philanthropy take center stage.”
Too bad it couldn’t have been more like, “You’ve accomplished so much for our students and have steered them through the issues within higher education while providing an outstanding and valuable academic experience while managing costs and keeping student debt to a minimum.”
“That’s what this gift is about today,” Genshaft said Wednesday. “We have to elevate things here and let students know that USF is a place to try and make a difference in the world around them.”
It’s tough to make a difference in this world when you’re staring down the barrel of five figure student debt with a non-marketable degree.
One thing that you can be sure of is the lasting legacy of Genshaft’s $20 million gift will be a huge operating expense for the new monument to educational mismanagement, which will certainly find its way into the University budget and be reflected in a soon to come round of tuition costs increase.
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