More than 12 Hillsborough Co. roads getting facelift

Aaron Mesmer reports

- The Hillsborough County Commission passed a $600 million plan Wednesday aimed at fixing parts more than a dozen roads and intersections, but the project has a lot of critics.

The 10-year plan, which was passed by a 6-1 margin with only Commissioner Ken Beckner voting against it, will set aside $35 million in 2017, increasing by $5 million in each of the following years.

"We are going to take off," said Commissioner Sandy Murman. "The next two to four years are extremely important, especially as we finish the premium transit plan that's going to have those transit components in it that we can ask the community to invest it."

The "roads-only" project will fund enhancements, safety and maintenance projects throughout the county with a lot of money devoted to Lithia-Pinecrest Road, Big Bend Road and Apollo Beach Boulevard.

Some opponents who spoke during the public comment portion of the County Commission meeting criticized the plan for seeming rushed.

"There is no reason why you should slam through a roads-only proposition," said Kent Bailey, President of the Sierra Club. "There is no reason not to let the people see what went on. Slow this down. Take some time to hear from the people."

Commissioners, however, said this has not been "slammed through," adding this was the next step in moving forward with a plan approved in April and included more than 100 public meetings. But for some residents, it's the same old problem: there is no money for rail or buses.

"There is no mass transit, anything, right now. No movement to do anything about it, no suggestions, no potential funds anywhere," said Susan Long.

This is the latest in a turbulent year for transportation in Hillsborough County. Commissioners caused controversy when they shot down a proposal to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot.

The commission has indicated it will revisit mass transit, but it's unclear when.

"This is a starting point," said Commissioner Ken Hagan. "We can amend and likely will amend this list moving forward. But it's important to point out without having that dedicated and sustainable funding source, we are limited on what we can accomplish with our local dollars."

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