The president of Duke Energy and the Sierra Club do agree on something. Both support making rapid transit part of the $390 million redevelopment of the Howard Frankland Bridge.
R. Alexander Glenn, president of Duke Energy, spoke at a public hearing Tuesday hosted by the state Transportation Department. He noted that the public utility and the environmental group often are at odds — but not on this topic.
Joining members of the Sierra Club and about a dozen other speakers, Glenn urged state transportation engineers to make rapid transit a priority in plans to rebuild the north span of the Howard Frankland Bridge.
He warned that the state may find itself at “the point of no return,” if it fails to include “bus rapid transit or light rail” in planning the project.
Glenn was among more than a dozen members of the public commenting on the state Transportation Department’s plan to rebuild the north span of the 50-year-old Howard Frankland Bridge. The new span will be 6 feet higher than the existing bridge to minimize water damage. The new bridge also will be wider to include a buffer, transit lane or express lane. How that “extra” lane should be used was the focus of discussion.
Frank Jacalone of the Sierra Club spoke just before Glenn came to the podium. He argued that even if a rebuilt bridge can better accommodate traffic, there will continue to be gridlock on I-275 as vehicles exit the span.
While Tuesday’s public forum in St. Petersburg was an open invitation for folks to raise questions and comment on the bridge project, every speaker focused on light rail and what the mass transit option would mean to the Tampa Bay area’s future.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Thursday at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 North Westshore Blvd. An open house is from 5-7 p.m., with a formal presentation and public comment starting at 6 p.m.
More this morning:
State-run flood insurance?: If the federal government cannot readjust skyrocketing flood insurance rates, the state of Florida should consider opening its own flood insurance agency for high-risk properties.
Sen. David Simmons, who chairs the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, told the News Service of Florida Tuesday that the state may end up serving as the agency of “last resort” if homeowners cannot afford federal flood insurance that has been recalibrated to end subsidies and reflect “true flood risk.”
Simmons told the News Service that homeowners “bought a home under a national flood insurance program that has now changed the rules on them, in the middle of the game.” Higher rates took effect on Oct. 1.
DUI cases are DOA: A dozen DUI cases are being dropped by authorities, after the Tampa police officer who investigated them was fired.
The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office closed the cases, after Sgt. Ray Fernandez, a veteran cop, was dimissed from his job following an internal investigation. Fernandez allegedly destroyed evidence and provided misleading information about an unrelated DUI arrest of Tampa attorney C. Philip Campbell.
Campbell alleges that he was the victim of an elaborate setup involving a rival law firm and Fernandez. Fernandez claims he was simply investigating a drunken driver tip.
The fallout for the state attorney is that a dozen other DUI cases Fernandez investigated will not get prosecuted. There may be up to 40 other pending criminal cases affected by his firing and the allegations against the police officer.
Laura McElroy, a spokesowman for Tampa Police, told reporters that she hopes drivers whose cases were dropped will appreciate the seriousness of the dismissed charges. She said that those drivers should see their arrests as a “wake-up call” and not get behind the wheel of a car after drinking too much alcohol.