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Tampa Council To Get Update On Interstate Expansion Plan

Florida Department of Transportation
This map shows where express toll lanes would be added.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Transportation will present a plan to Tampa City Council that would add express toll lanes to Interstate 4, Interstate 75 and Interstate 275.

It's called the Tampa Bay Express.

Michelle Cookson is afraid  the proposed expansion would affect her historic Seminole Heights neighborhood. Cookson is the spokeswoman for Sunshine Citizens, a grassroots group of Tampa residents who oppose the plan. She said it's bad for the neighborhood and bad for the local economy. 

"This project is so catastrophic for our urban core, which is a very vibrant and resurgent area in Tampa," she said. 

The plan was originally drafted in the mid-1990s. Cookson said it's a 20th-century solution to a 21st-century problem. She said Tampa leaders should look to cities such as Houston and Seattle, which have solved similar issues with more efficient transportation -- by increasing buses and adding light rail.

Officials from DOT were not available for comment on Wednesday on the project that is estimated to cost $3 billion.

Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez said that the problem is that the DOT decision is ultimately controlled by the governor and state legislature. State and city governments have different motivations, he said.

"They have a different charge than we do. Their charge is to get  people and freight to and from places," he said. "Our charge is to make sure that the people that live in these areas have a good quality of life."   

Quincy J. Walters is a junior at USF, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. His interest in journalism spurred from the desire to convey compelling narratives. He has written for USF’s student paper, The Oracle and is currently the videographer for Creative Pinellas. If he’s not listening to NPR, he’s probably listening to Randy Newman.
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