TBX gets thumbs-up from Lakeland Chamber Board

Florida’s Tampa Bay Express (TBX) highway project recently got the green light from the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, which now urges local authorities to approve the plan with no funding cuts.

Specifically, the Chamber wants the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization to approve the Transportation Improvement Plan, consisting of new express lanes added to existing interstate routes to function as separate but parallel traffic corridors.

The new optional-use lanes will impose tolls on drivers according to traffic patterns to relieve congestion on the main roads and allow wiggle room for those needing to reach their destinations quickly — such as making a flight or pickup on time.

Mike McGee, who serves as chairman of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, said that experts deem transportation a major issue for businesses when making decisions about location and expansion.

“Increased capacity and improved infrastructure throughout the Tampa Bay region will make Lakeland more attractive to new and expanding businesses,” McGee said. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of our business community to support and encourage an acceleration of managed land projects in Polk County and the Tampa Bay region.”

Not everyone is delighted with the project. A Hillsborough County “Truth Page” blog recently lambasted the improvement as “a notorious sticking point” for Tampa Bay’s infrastructure, stating that the government wants to “shove the costly ‘Lexus Lanes’ plan down everyone’s throats” and criticizing the concept as divisive and even destructive.

Change isn’t always easy, but Lakeland Chamber is keeping its eyes on the horizon.

Miami has operated express lanes for nearly five years with measurable success; and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale are following suit. Major metropolitan areas nationwide — Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. among them — have also alleviated traffic congestion by using this system.

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