ACCESS 2050 survey sheds light on public’s transportation priorities in Hillsborough

Introduce newer, faster public transit. Reduce traffic jams. Maintain and repair roads and bridges.

Those are the top three priorities from more than 4,600 community responses to the Hillsborough County Transportation Planning Organization’s ACCESS 2050 survey, which gathered public opinion of what’s important for countywide transportation over the next 25 years. 

HART FacebookImproving existing transit ranked sixth out of seven potential priorities in the ACCESS 2050 survey. Newer, faster public transit ranked first.Extending or adding lanes to major roads, reducing crashes, improving existing bus service and building more trails and side paths round out the rankings of seven potential priority focus areas.

The survey results will help shape the once-every-five-year update to the countywide long-range transportation plan, which is dubbed ACCESS 2050 for the year it reaches.   

The long-range plan serves as a guide for future transportation projects, priorities and goals. It’s also important because large-scale road projects and some more general transportation priorities have to be included in either this long-range plan or the TPO’s short-term project program, which looks out five years, to be eligible for federal or state funding. The long-range plan update will continue to go through a public vetting process before the TPO board votes on it on October 16th.

Here are some takeaways from the ACCESS 2050 survey.

Potential funding sources

There is widespread support  (77.7 percent in favor)  for renewing the Community Investment Tax, a half-cent sales tax funding infrastructure projects, at its current level. A slim majority (52.1 percent) supports increasing the tax to one cent.

Back in 1996, county voters approved the initial CIT for a 30-year term. It sunsets at the end of November 2026. The County Commission has voted to put a 15-year renewal at the current half-cent amount on this November’s ballot. 

There’s widespread support (79.5 percent) for maintaining the current 7 cents per gallon local gas tax and widespread opposition (70.7 percent) to increasing it to 12 cents per gallon or letting it expire (77.2 percent).

There’s strong support (69.9 percent ) for maintaining the property tax funding transit service at the current 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value and significant opposition (65.1 percent) for increasing it to $1.

There is significant opposition to three additional hypothetical funding options: replacing the gas tax with a fee based on miles driven (71 percent); increasing the current $48 driver’s license fee (62 percent); and creating an additional fee for using rideshare services like Uber or Lyft (72.6 percent).

On the other hand, there is significant support (65.7 percent) for creating a fee to use electric vehicle charging stations.

Express lanes and tolls

There’s support (56.5 percent) to add new toll lanes on existing highways but substantial opposition (66.2 percent) for converting existing lanes to toll lanes. There’s strong support (70.3 percent) for keeping toll prices the same during all times of day and all traffic conditions. There’s strong opposition (66.1 percent) to having toll prices that increase as traffic does. 

Opinions on major projects

The survey also gathers opinions on nearly two dozen major projects that are under various stages of consideration. There’s support (64.2 percent) for reconstruction of the Interstate 75 interchange at US 301 and support (57.6 percent) for building a new Interstate 275 interchange at US 41, north of the Bearss Avenue interchange.

There’s support (62.4) for an elevated extension of the Selmon Expressway along theTHEAWith traffic on the Selmon Expressway above pre-pandemic projections, THEA is working on two projects to add travel lanes along existing stretches and studying a potential long-term project to build an elevated extension from Brandon to Riverview.
US 301 corridor from Brandon to Big Bend Road, a long-term potential project the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority is now studying. There’s also support (61.4 percent) for the planned widening project to add a lane in each direction on I-275 from Hillsborough Avenue to Bearss.  

On the other hand, there’s widespread opposition (61.1 percent) to widening Balm Road from Clement Pride Boulevard to Balm Riverview Road; widening County Road 39 from State Road 674 to State Road 60 (62 percent); and the Florida Department of Transportation’s planned widening of the Suncoast Parkway from Van Dyke Road to the Pasco County line (65.5 percent).

There’s support for managed lane projects on Interstate 4 (72.7 percent), I-275 (67.8 percent), Gandy Bridge (59.9 percent), I-75 South (57.7 percent) and I-75 North (56 percent). Managed lane projects include things like high occupancy vehicle lanes, toll lanes, reversible lanes and express lanes.

The survey shows widespread support for a variety of transit project concepts. A bus rapid transit (BRT) system linking downtown Tampa, the University of South Florida and Brandon (75.9 percent); regional passenger rail (75.3 percent); passenger rail on the CSX South Tampa track (75.3 percent); an extension of the TECO Line Streetcar (72.7 percent); an east-west BRT system (70.1 percent); and a BRT system linking USF to Brandon (67 percent) each has strong support.

“Across the board, transit projects were supported by a significant amount, just telling us there’s a definite need and want from the community for transit projects,” Amy Elmore, a consultant working on public outreach efforts related to ACCESS 2050, says about the survey results during the TPO board’s June 12th meeting. 


During that June 12th meeting, TPO board members offer a variety of takeaways from the survey results.

Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco says he’s glad to see the “overwhelming” support for renewing the Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“I think it’s going to be make or break…because of how it’s funded and what it funds,” he says of the November referendum on the CIT.

Maniscalco also discusses the level of support for specific projects.

“It’s abundantly clear that the people support transit, transit options, whether it’s downtown Tampa to USF or the streetcar extension…what people do not support as much is highway widening,” he says.

As Tampa and Hillsborough County grow, along with traffic congestion, Maniscalco says the survey shows people want options other than the automobile to get around.

While Maniscalco notes a comment submitted as part of the survey’s public feedback that supports transit and opposes road widening projects because they just attract more traffic, County Commissioner Joshua Wostal points to a comment saying roads need to grow with traffic.

“The fact of the matter is that by far the mass percent of the population is never going to leave their car,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine a train full of cowboys out of Plant City. I think the last time that happened was when there were cowboys walking around everywhere.”

County Commissioner Pat Kemp voices opposition to the Suncoast Parkway widening, an FDOT project included in the countywide transportation plan as part of that state agency’s project list for the area.

“It’s always been massively overfunded and massively underutilized," Kemp says of the Suncoast Parkway. "Return on investment has been extremely poor and it’s been opposed by areas where it’s going through."

For more information, go to ACCESS 2050 survey results

This story is part of an underwriting agreement between 83 Degrees Media and Plan Hillsborough to help inform the public about ongoing planning initiatives and how they can participate.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.