Believe it or not, yesterday, newspaper columnists were debating whether the Florida Department of Transportation’s plan to build more toll-driven express lanes is a good idea. Pretty much, liberal columnists think it’s unfair because such marketplace innovations create a privileged class of motorists, which offends the sensibilities of bumper-to-bumper masses.
More conservative writers like Tom Jackson opine that building express lane toll roads will relieve traffic congestion for all motorists which makes sense because Florida Department of Transportation planners have announced that both HART and school buses may use the new lanes proposed for parts of interstates 75, 275 and 4. It does not require a Masters degree in mathematics to understand how reducing traffic congestion reduces traffic congestion, offended sensibilities notwithstanding.
Joe Henderson, a liberal columnist at The Tampa Tribune, believes the Florida Department of Transportation’s express lane plans are part of an ongoing love affair with pay to use highways that is nothing more than “trickle-down transportation.” In his column he calls express lanes “Lexus lanes,” a reference to class politics. No doubt he thinks toll roads or express lanes represent those evil one-percenters, scurrilous bankers rushing to foreclose on a few extra families while they’re stuck in the normal flow of traffic. Never mind that most of the offended masses in Hillsborough County were happy to vote palatial stadiums, workplaces for millionaires and billionaires, while infrastructure was ignored.
Apparently Mr. Henderson is willing to wait for federal, state and local municipalities to introduce new infrastructure tax increases to build new highways and widen the ones we have in place. Good luck with that. Tampa City Council just yesterday failed to approve a proposed tax to deal with storm waters which turned that city’s streets into Venicesque-like canals each year. Tampa city Council is more likely in the bowels of City Hall training a new stadium tax to attract the Rays and pay off their contract to St. Petersburg. After all, building stadiums is a vital priority in that town.
Here’s the thing. There is no ten-year plan out there to solve the basic problem of traffic congestion (gridlock) in the Tampa Bay area. Building express lanes, or “Lexus lanes” as the class-envy crowd has dubbed them, is the only viable alternative. Sure, there will be motorists down with the struggle who feel the tinge of envy as paying customers pass them by in the express lane, but that’s better than sitting behind their Mercedes breathing diesel fumes in the free lanes.
Traffic arteries throughout the Tampa Bay area are gridlocked each day and the problem is getting worse, even if it seems impossible. Whether you travel I-4, I-75, I-275 live in Tampa or St. Petersburg or Land O Lakes, if it’s rush-hour, you’re going nowhere fast, so bring on the Lexus lanes. If a sufficient number of drivers – including those big yellow school and diesel-fuming HART buses – take a paid express lane, free lanes won’t be as clogged, and that’s a good thing.