Tampa residents push back on TBX tollway plans

- Maps displaying the properties that must be acquired for the planned Tampa Bay Express (TBX) were put on display at Monday night's informational meeting at the Children's Board building in Ybor City.

About two dozen Ybor residents showed up to voice their concerns about the historic properties that could be destroyed in the process of expanding Tampa's roadways.

"Where are these people going to go? They've lived there many years. They've established their neighborhoods. Some of these are elderly people," said Josie Nabti, a resident of V.M. Ybor neighborhood.

The TBX project will add a tolled express lane to highways in the downtown core, an area Nabti views as a an important part of the city's history, and one that has only recently recovered from being torn in half by the interstates 50 years ago.

"I know what urban renewal did to Ybor City in the 1960s. It uplifted a lot of families, a lot of businesses, and Ybor City had a very long time coming back to what it was," said a tearful Nabti.

For several months, residents in Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Ybor, among many, have expressed their concerns to FDOT through community meetings.

The plan calls for building toll lanes in segments from the St. Pete Gateway, through downtown Tampa and into Polk County. Some people said the expansion is not worth the cost.

"[FDOT's] own data states that it's probably only going to reduce congestion somewhere between 10-14 percent," said Ybor resident Lizz Cannon. "These lanes are going to cost commuters more money to utilize, so we're going to pay on both ends, both for construction and usage."

Tampa Heights resident Rick Fernandez has attended every TBX informational meeting to voice his concerns.

"It's a solution to a problem that really isn't our problem. Our problem is getting in and around the urban core, for those of us that live there," said Fernandez.

FDOT officials said the project is meant to address a broader problem: Tampa's road congestion. Traffic is getting worse every year as the city's population grows. The plan for toll lanes has been discussed for the last 20 years.

Many of the residents at Monday's meeting said they would prefer to see better mass transit options created in Tampa, such as a light rail.

Neighbors are planning a TBX protest march at 11 a.m. Saturday. It will start at the Office of Neighborhood Empowerment on North Nebraska Avenue.

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