By Matt Wiley
While the updated 2040 Long Range Transportation and Comprehensive Plans for Tampa and Hillsborough County may not be due until November of this year, the results of the first round of resident surveys are in and could have a lasting effect on the future growth of the New Tampa area.
During a panel-style town hall meeting during “Florida’s Largest Home Show” at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on March 14, about 30 attendees and other passers-by had an opportunity to hear from a panel of Tampa Bay-area leaders about the first round of results from the “Imagine 2040” resident survey that will help planners update the 2040 Long Range Transportation and Comprehensive Plans for Tampa and Hillsborough County. The planning could help dictate the way our area will grow, as more than half a million people are expected to move to Hillsborough County in the next few decades, many of whom will likely move to the New Tampa area, as new communities continue to sprout up.
Among the panelists were District 7 Tampa City Council member and Tampa/Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization vice-chair Lisa Montelione (who represents New Tampa downtown; see story on page 4), Temple Terrace City Council member David Pogorilich, Planning Commission chair Derek Doughty, Brandon Chamber of Commerce CEO Laura Simpson, Tampa Downtown Partnership president Christine Burdick, Tampa Bay Builders Association (TBBA) CEO Jennifer Doerfel and executive director of both the MPO and Hillsborough Planning Commission chairman Ray Chiaramonte, who led the presentation.
“This is an exciting process,” said Doughty to the crowd about the MPO and Planning Commission’s most extensive public engagement effort yet. “It’s really important for us to hear what (the public) has to say.”
More than 3,500 people responded to the survey, either on paper, online or at kiosks set up at 49 select locations across the county.
Councilwoman Montelione shared Doughty’s sentiment.“Right now, this planning seems like an abstract scenario, but it’s not,” Montelione said. “Your input and this plan will affect the people who live in and come to Tampa for years to come.”
The survey given to residents between August and November of last year presented three different growth strategies for Hillsborough County: the “Suburban Dream,” “Bustling Metro” and “New Corporate Centers.”
Under the “Suburban Dream” scenario, growth will just be “business as usual” — development will continue the way it has for the past several years, with most new homes built in suburban-style communities and with new jobs spread across the county in small office parks. Traveling would be done mostly by automobile and would require more widening of existing roads, bigger intersections with overpass-style interchanges and other advanced traffic management systems.
In the “Bustling Metro” scenario, instead of continuing the county’s existing growth plan, new homes, shopping and services would be built in mixed-use centers around bus and train stations, while older shopping areas would be revitalized. The bulk of the jobs would remain in the current business districts (Downtown, Westshore, USF), but new buildings also would be added in those districts. Mass transit would play a much more significant role in the region and could include bus, rail, shuttles and bicycles.
Finally, there is the “New Corporate Center” option, which would see a dynamic change in the way people get around the county by adding toll lanes in interstate medians. The toll lanes would be used to connect multiple economic centers, including downtown, Westshore and the USF area, as well as others that would be developed along both I-75 and I-4. New homes would follow and be located in and around those centers.
According to results from the survey filled out by participants from across the county, a “hybrid” scenario combining aspects of each growth scenario currently is being considered. Chiaramonte said the survey revealed that respondents’ top three priorities for growth in the county are reducing traffic congestion, job creation and the availability of bus or rail.
“See, we’re not just planners chasing a non-existing issue,” said Chiaramonte about transportation in the county.
In the “hybrid” scenario, frequent bus service and safe walk- and bikeways could expand access to a possible first line of passenger rail and a mix of transportation improvements will be needed county-wide. Corporate centers will continue to expand and grow along interstates, possibly connected by new express toll lanes. Business districts and corporate parks will add jobs and buildings, filling vacant lots. Some new town centers with a mix of places to live, work and shop will be added at future rail and bus stations and older commercial areas. Suburban-style neighborhoods will account for about half of new homes.
Respondents also favored condos and apartments near business districts and rebuilding commercial corridors with apartments and townhomes mixed in, as well as adding jobs to existing job centers (Westshore, downtown, USF) and redeveloping and filling in existing corporate parks and industrial areas.
In addition to housing options and job creation, respondents requested more transportation options, including more sidewalks, bike lanes and trails, better intersections, commuter or light rail systems, better bus service and new express toll lanes.
For more info about Imagine 2040, please visit Imagine2040.org.