TAMPA (FOX 13) - The ever-controversial Tampa Bay Express project is getting a dose of support. The newly formed "TBXyes" group is rallying behind the proposal in an effort to deflect much of the criticism the plan has been getting.
No one can argue that Tampa Bay's traffic problem needs a solution, as more people move here, and we work to attract more companies. How we fix it, is the multi-billion dollar question.
So far, there's been overwhelming opposition to FDOT's TBX proposal. For months, we've heard just about every reason why the the plan shouldn't happen.
"I don't want to open my door every day and see a wall connected to a highway," Meagan Hrenko said.
"You can't replace these buildings," said Mario Nunez. "We are losing our soul."
"It's just going to make people drive through all our historic neighborhoods," said Josie Nabti.
The Sunshine Citizens and the Stop TBX Coalition have come prepared to meetings of the Metropolitan Planning Organization meetings, sporting shirts, stickers and pins. Next meeting, they'll meet the newly-formed "TBXyes" group, armed with all the reasons the plan should happen.
"It's important that we speak with one voice," said Rick Homans, the President and CEO of Tampa Bay Partnership. "We want to improve the traffic situation. We want to invest these dollars into our community."
The group, which includes the Tampa Bay Partnership, is made up of more than 20 Tampa Bay business organizations, from Tampa International Airport to Port Tampa Bay. All of them support the redesign of key interchanges, widening of roads and added toll express lanes to parts of I-275 and I-4.
Tampa International Airport spokesperson Emily Nipps said the plan would "help our passengers get to and from the airport. The express lanes would support an express bus that would connect the airport to downtown Tampa, which is very much needed by our business travelers and visitors."
"It creates all these possibilities for transit options in the future, but also more importantly, it creates immediate relief for congestion on the highways," Homans said.
"Not too many people have been speaking publicly in support of TBX," said Bill Roberts of the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors. We will be speaking at every opportunity."
Sunshine Citizens immediately said no to TBXyes, calling it a "conflict of interest."
"It was surprising and frankly, an outrage," said Michelle Cookson of Sunshine Citizens. "What are public entities that take taxpayer funds doing fighting the public? Instead of doing that, they ought to be working with the community and FDOT to get to a win-win solution."
The next MPO meeting is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. Members from both groups are planning to be there to make their last push for or against the plan.
The board will make the final decision with a vote on June 22nd.