Hillsborough referendum calls for more sales taxes to support better roads, safer alternatives

Potholes, snail-paced rush hours, and conspicuously absent bike lanes form the narrative about the Tampa Bay Area transportation scene. Commuters, in particular, know that traffic can be especially bad during peak hours. Bicyclists and pedestrians no longer feel safe. And a lot of locals are fed up with the situation.

That could begin to change though come November, thanks to a citizen-led initiative called All for Transportation, which collected enough signatures to secure a spot on the Hillsborough County ballot for a transportation funding referendum. Voters will be asked on Nov. 6 to approve a one-penny county sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.

The community-led effort exceeded the 49,000 signature threshold, says the Hillsborough Country Supervisor of Elections. More than 70,000 locals signed the All for Transportation petition, which launched seven weeks ago. The petition supports more funding for a variety of transportation and infrastructure projects to address issues like traffic congestion and safety.

Tyler Hudson speaking at an All For Transportation news conference.“We want to fund a transportation system that saves time, saves money, and saves lives,” says Tyler Hudson, an All for Transportation chair. “Our underinvestment in transportation is affecting people in all corners of the county.”

The All for Transportation proposal will fund improvements in Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and in unincorporated areas throughout Hillsborough County if a majority of voters approve the referendum on the ballot in November.

The improvements would include renovations to bridges and roads, more public transport options including more funding for additional HART buses and routes, and specific changes to decrease bottlenecks during rush hour. The initiative also calls for more sustainable measures like increasing walkability, bike safety, and investment into electric vehicles. The funds would be reviewed by an oversight committee and audited annually. 

Opposition to the proposed increased sales tax is expected to be led by Americans for Prosperity, which has helped kill similar efforts in other parts of the country.

Local education proponents who want to see taxes increased in support of public schools are also considering whether to support the transportation initiative.

Traffic safety has been on the minds of many people in Tampa since a mother and toddler were killed in a crash on Bayshore Boulevard in May. The City of Tampa soon after put into motion an improvement plan that includes renovations to crosswalks and bike lane buffers along the busy street.

Tell us what you think? Join the 83 Degrees Public Group on Facebook to answer this question: 
Do you support a 1
percent increase in sales tax to support better transportation services?
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Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives.