Prescription for Disaster: Tearing Down Interstates, AFT Rail Tax and Train Rides for “Free”



By Sharon Calvert, from Eye on Tampa Bay

Sunshine Citizens is registered in Florida as a “501c3 nonprofit” and has a federal tax exempt status from the IRS.
Sunshine Citizens website reflects they are a transit “advocacy” group who wants to reduce “our dependence on the automobile”. And in reality, it is an activist group who advocates for an urbanist agenda.
Sunshine Citizens has been “actively” opposing FDOT’s plans to expand and improve I-275 and fix malfunction junction since it was created in 2015. Sunshine Citizens was  successful in causing FDOT to delay planned and funded interstate improvements in 2017.
That delay caused Hillsborough County to “lose” hundreds of millions of state/federal gas tax dollars  slated to go to Hillsborough County interstate improvements, to go elsewhere. FDOT redirected those millions already paid by taxpayers, to Orlando and Central Florida for their massive interstate expansion projects.
Now, Sunshine Citizens not only opposes interstate expansion projects, but “advocates” tearing down the north corridor of I-275 and replacing it with a street level Boulevard with a train.

I-275 is used by over 250K people every day. It serves as a major evacuation route in Tampa Bay. It is a major commuter corridor for those who live and work in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. It is a major corridor for students going to USF, cancer patients going to Moffitt Cancer Center, tourists going to Busch Gardens, patients going to Byrd Alzheimer Center and veterans going to the VA Hospital.

I-275 is a major mobility corridor that moves hundreds of thousands of people, goods and services every day.
Sunshine Citizens does not care about all that because they it is ideologically driven. They are comprised of transit advocates driven by an ideology of “no more roads” with an uncompromising selfish attitude that it’s their way or the highway.
Sunshine Citizens posted its “Vision” to replace I-275 with a street level light rail boulevard on its Facebook page a few weeks ago. Light rail is very slow averaging less than 20 miles per hour. All of those transit stations along their proposed light rail boulevard will be noisy street level rail crossings that stop traffic creating more congestion.
Sunshine Citizens Vision
Traffic seeps like water so residents and streets in nearby neighborhoods will be negatively impacted with more traffic on their neighborhood roads not meant for such heavy volume. Those neighborhood roads will become more dangerous and less safe.
Sunshine Citizens cannot wishfully or magically wall off traffic.
Sunshine Citizens wants costly rail everywhere. The proposed CSX commuter rail lines and the Streetcar are street level trains too.
Daily street level passenger railroad crossings are some of the most dangerous and accident prone in the country. The number of accidents and fatalities associated with SunRail since it began in 2014 is atrocious.
Sunshine Citizens “Vision” of tearing down interstates and putting street level rail everywhere will create havoc and gridlock and danger zones in Hillsborough County.
With a deficit of major east west roads in Hillsborough County, street level transit stations will be stopping traffic all day. The cost to taxpayers and the misery Sunshine Citizens wants to place on the hundreds of thousands (and growing) users of I-275 everyday will be tremendous.
Many Sunshine Citizens activists cross-pollinate with All for Transportation activists. The Treasurer of Sunshine Citizens, again a 501c3 nonprofit granted tax exempt status, is Kevin O’Hare. Kevin O’Hare, is currently employed by the All for Transportation (AFT) Political Action Committee as their Outreach Director. He worked directly on AFT’s tax hike referendum campaign last year.
Another Sunshine Citizens activist Rick Fernandez, President of the Tampa Heights Civic Association who also actively supported the AFT rail tax, and was appointed to AFT’s Independent Oversight Committee (IOC) earlier this year by the city of Tampa. The IOC is the misnamed committee that AFT gave authority for approving all projects funded by the AFT rail tax.
This Tampa Bay Times article included the picture below of Fernandez protesting interstate expansion projects in 2016.
Picture of Rick Fernandez courtesy of Zack Wittman at the Tampa Bay Times

Imagine the exhaust fumes with increased congestion created by tearing down I-275 and all the cars stopped idling at street level railroad crossings every day. Fernandez may need a bigger mask.
Tyler Hudson, the Chair of All for Transportation, was on the Board of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, a Sunshine Citizens coalition partner, during the AFT tax hike referendum campaign.
With such cozy relationships, it makes one wonder if there’s collaboration and coordination going on between the All for Transportation PAC and the Sunshine Citizens nonprofit.
The genesis for the Sunshine Citizens interstate tear down “Vision” came from a thesis written by a USF architecture graduate student Joshua Frank. Frank, who is not an engineer or a transportation expert, stated in this recent article:


“We don’t want any more roads,” said Frank. “We want to shift toward transit and smarter people who will support transit.”


Frank, a USF graduate student with little to no practical experience thinks he knows best. One cannot find a more condescending and elitist attitude than this.
Less than 2% use transit in Hillsborough County. Frank and his Sunshine Citizen allies want to spend untold billions of taxpayer dollars on Frank’s social engineering vision.
Sunshine Citizens wants to use the new bucket of AFT billions to pay for all the rail projects.
And HART’s new CEO, Benjamin Limmer, wants to create a big, new redistribution giveaway program and spend AFT rail tax dollars on train rides for “free.”
We warned last year that the $16 Billion AFT tax hike was a rail tax but it’s much worse.
It’s tearing down major interstates, costly rail everywhere and a “free” train ride giveaway program.
Is that what voters voted for last November?


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