Carrot or stick? City wants trucks banned on city streets near Port of Tampa

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Local and state officials in Ybor City, Fla., have tried the carrot approach for keeping truckers off city streets as they travel to and from the Port of Tampa. Now they’re ready to try the stick approach.

The Florida Department of Transportation has tried to entice truckers with the brand-new Interstate 4/Selmon Expressway Connector designed to carry truck traffic in and out of the Port of Tampa. The one-mile toll road was opened to traffic in January 2014 under promises that truckers would save time and fuel in exchange for paying a toll ranging from $1 to $5.

Some truckers are using the connector, but others are not exactly enthused about paying a toll to save a few minutes. Recent reports indicate that a number of truckers choose moving at the speed of the stoplights along 21st and 22nd Streets in Ybor rather than taking the connector.

That could all end soon and leave truckers with little choice.

According to FDOT, which operates the tolled connector, Ybor City is redesigning its downtown streets to narrow the traffic lanes, widen pedestrian sidewalks, and beautify the area with landscaping. It’s not a coincidence, according to a report by WTSP.

An FDOT spokesman says the $8.3 million public works project will likely remove the last of the incentives for a trucker to use downtown streets en route to the port.

Residents and downtown businesses have complained about truck traffic for years.

In 2009, FDOT received a federal stimulus grant to help pay for the connector. FDOT collects tolls on the connector only by SunPass or through the agency’s toll-by-plate method that photographs a vehicle’s license plate and sends a toll invoice to the owner of the vehicle.

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