Hillsborough County recently held a series of Transportation Open Houses with the goal of gathering residents’ feedback about transportation needs while showcasing the lack of funding in every area, from sidewalks and traffic signals to pedestrian walkways and roadway capacity.
Commissioner Gwen White greeted guests at the open house in Riverview, saying that she again would be championing a 1 percent sales surtax to be on the ballot in November. Her comments were met with grumbles from the crowd and citizens passing out flyers encouraging residents to reject the tax hike.
Storyboards mounted on easels lined the perimeter of the room, each one showing maps and indicating how much money is needed for already-identified issues and how much money is available to fulfill these needs. The outlook shows a significant shortfall in funding and inadequate revenues.
At the Riverview open house, residents seemed to walk away with more questions than answers. Many questioned the status of the $521 million collected from the original sales surtax collected in 2019-21. The referendum was later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, and the money is sitting in the courts.
“This is a real eye-opener,” said former prosecutor Krisanne Hall, also a professor at the River School of Government based out of The River at Tampa Bay Church. The group of students accompanying her were among those passing out flyers with details of why residents should vote ‘No’ on the proposed 1 percent tax increase. “We came here looking for answers,” she added.
Commissioner Stacy Whites’ aides helped residents voice their opinions via sticky notes placed on a large map. Residents added their opinions and suggestions to the areas they were concerned about, adding to the mass of colorful notes already placed from the open houses in other districts.
Erica Elwell, along with residents who live off of both Big Bend and Boyette Rds., complained about the increasing traffic every year from their homes to I-75. Both of these roads have stretches marked “severe crash corridor.”
“It used to take me five minutes to get to the interstate,” said Elwell. “Now, it can take up to 40 minutes during the morning rush hour, and there is an accident almost every day.”
Chris Wilkerson, representing Hillsborough County, commented that the workshops were held with the intention of getting input from the citizens about infrastructure needs but also served as a way to open communication about the 1 percent sales surtax.
The board of county commissioners held a workshop following the open houses to discuss residents’ concerns. County Administrator Bonnie Wise commented, “Each and every comment that they provided is valued and appreciated and helps us to better understand the needs of the community.”
To learn more, visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org.