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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our host, WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami.

Addressing transportation issues in Florida and Hillsborough County

An aerial view of I-275 at I-4 Downtown Tampa Interchange. Both highways are criss-crossing.
Florida Department of Transportation
In February, a Forbes Advisor study found Tampa is the 10th worst U.S. city for drivers. And a study from Assurance IQ, an insurance shopping platform, ranked I-4 as the most dangerous interstate in the country.

Population increases, the number of drivers on the road, infrastructure and funding all tie into the transportation challenges Hillsborough County faces.

Wherever you are in Florida, driving can be a pain.

In February, a Forbes Advisor study found Tampa is the 10th worst U.S. city for drivers. And a study from Assurance IQ, an insurance shopping platform, ranked I-4 as the most dangerous interstate in the country.

Nigel Joseph, chair of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, spoke Friday with Tom Hudson on The Florida Roundup about transportation challenges.

He said countywide issues come from different sources.

“I think it has to do with the number of drivers on the road, obviously that's tied to population increases. It has to do with the infrastructure trying to keep up with those rapid population increases. It has to do with funding trying to keep up with the other two categories.”

Florida’s population is growing, a lot. That’s changed transportation planning in Hillsborough County, according to Joseph.

“… nowadays, we tend to look at shorter time spans and try to get things done quicker, because things are growing so rapidly and changing so rapidly that as soon as you come up with an idea, it's already too old or outdated or being challenged by some new group or some new population number that's looming on the near horizon,” Joseph explained.

Joseph also described further how the growing number of Floridians impacts the state’s infrastructure.

“… whether it's new lanes, whether it's widening ... people talk about toll lanes, people talk about double-stack highways, there's all these sorts of engineering answers to it," Joseph said. "But really, it boils down to capacity. And that ties into what we we’re talking about population, right? We have all these pressures from population, but the capacity isn't keeping up.”

Joseph said there are a few ways Hillsborough County is looking to address these transportation challenges.

“One of the most recent things we've been trying to do is forecast congestion and using the forecasts on congestion as a prioritization performance metric. Obviously, different modalities, we also try to increase modality so that people have more choices and it isn't all about vehicles on the roads.”

He noted technology is another important part of improving congestion, such as using more sensors on roadways to make traffic counting more precise. However, technology can be expensive and bring up issues of where to allocate funds.

“We all know that our infrastructure isn't exactly where it needs to be right now. So if we start pulling money away from investing in the infrastructure we have, and spending that money on technologies that aren't yet proven, is that the right answer? These are all balancing acts and questions that our elected officials have to take on,” Joseph said.

There is also a proposal to merge Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties’ metropolitan planning organizations. Creating a single Tampa Bay MPO, according to the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance, would help with funding and advancing transportation projects.

“We on the Hillsborough side are moving forward,” Joseph said about the MPO merger. “And I believe, from what I hear about on the Pasco and Pinellas sides, they're also interested in moving forward and trying to figure out how to work together as a region to address the problems and get more funding into the region, so that we can obviously put more funding to the infrastructure and try and resolve some of these problems we're all looking at and sharing as a regional community.”

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