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Residents voice transportation frustrations

A chamber forum on transportation issues brings together residents concerned that growth is exceeding planning.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002


NEW TAMPA -- New Tampa residents want their roads upgraded faster, they don't need a light rail system and they don't want bus service expanded north to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

That was the near unanimous consensus of 30 people at a Thursday forum on transportation issues sponsored by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Although some projects are in the early stages -- such as the widening of Bruce B. Downs and the construction of an east-west road to link New Tampa with Interstate 275 -- residents expressed frustration that the area's fast growth would clog new roads as soon as they opened.

"Tampa's problem is that we are short term," said Hunter's Green resident Joel Brumbach, 33, at the forum at Wharton High School. "By the time we get there it's too late."

Hillsborough County has $9.1-billion in transportation improvements planned over the next 20 years. So far only $5-billion is funded.

"There's a pretty big gap between what the planners are saying and the funding that's available," said Kim Scheeler, president and CEO of the chamber, which will publish a series of recommendations next month about how to fix area gridlock.

Of the $4.1-billion shortfall, $2.5-billion is for a mass transit system.

Mike Carricato, president of the Pebble Creek Homeowners Association, said area citizens are tired of paying taxes that go to other parts of the city instead of New Tampa.

"If $1 goes to HARTline," said Carricato, referring to the county's public transportation agency, "instead of to Bruce. B Downs, (Pebble Creek) is probably against it."

Possibilities for raising additional money include a five cent gas tax, a one percent rise in sales tax, an increase in transportation fees or an increase in property taxes.

But tinkering with property taxes would probably be unpopular, according to the chamber.

* * *

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com.

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