Passage of a sales tax referendum for transportation improvements in Hillsborough County means local officials will be able to begin addressing traffic congestion by spending more on core infrastructure, adding transit options and improving intersections, making roads safer and preparing the county for continued population growth.
Placed on the November ballot by more than 77,000 Hillsborough County residents, All For Transportation early supporter and Tampa Bay Lightning owner and philanthropist Jeff Vinik is confident the improvements that will result from AFT’s passage will make a tangible difference.
Passage of the referendum is "historic and sends a clear message: There is no problem too great that cannot be solved by citizens working together,” Vinik says.
“Our community has made a historic investment in its future. I could not be more proud to have invested in this campaign, along with many others in our business community, to address our transportation problems head-on. It is incumbent on our elected leaders to make sure every person in Hillsborough County benefits. I look forward to working with the community to ensure just that.”
The increased sales tax will go into effect for 30 years and raise about $9 billion total over that time period. There is an estimated $13 billion backlog in Hillsborough's transportation needs.
About 54 percent will go toward improved roads; about 45 percent will go toward mass transit, including better bus service.
The transportation measure was one of two countywide tax referendums on the Hillsborough ballot; the other seeking a half-cent sales tax increase for school maintenance and construction ups Hillsborough's sales tax to 8.5 cents, the highest in Florida.
Here's what residents will get as a result, according to the advocacy group All For Transportation.
1. Begin to reduce Hillsborough County’s transportation project backlog, including fixing already identified roads and intersections in need of widening or repairs, building and replacing damaged sidewalks, and filling potholes throughout the county.
2. Better bus service: $126 million annually will be spent to provide more transit options, such as express buses, expanded routes and hours, and more frequent pickups at key bus stops to make public transit more commuter-friendly.
3. New and expanded transit: Funding will be used to expand access to public transit, including providing additional transportation for 100,000 seniors and disabled citizens who have no access today.
4. Safer roads: Hillsborough County’s roads are some of the most dangerous in the country with more than 20,000 people suffering injury or death every year in crashes. Studies indicate safer roads would save more than 800 lives of drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians each year, according to research by the National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization.
5. Synced traffic lights: Funding will go toward computerized traffic lights and advanced traffic management systems at more than 640 intersections, improving the flow of traffic during rush hour to relieve congestion while improving overall road safety.
6. New sidewalks: The plan is to build more than 300 miles of new sidewalks and provide money to chip away at a 7-year sidewalk repair backlog.
7. Paved roads: A top priority will be the maintenance and resurfacing of thousands of miles of existing streets and bridges.
8. Streetlights: Adding 600 miles of new streetlights throughout the county.
9. Every neighborhood benefits: In the first year alone, $280 million will be distributed to all areas of the county to improve transportation, including major projects already approved in the MPO's plans.
10. Independent oversight: New revenue generated from this initiative will be placed in a trust fund and overseen by an independent committee, ensuring the money is spent fairly and transparently. The committee will include appointees from Hillsborough County, the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, and HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation), and also experts appointed by the county's elected constitutional officers, including the clerk, property appraiser and tax collector.
For more information, visit the All For Transportation website