TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In a vote during the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners meeting, the county commissioners voted unanimously to approve use of $35 million in federal funds to complete county road resurfacing and repaving projects.
The funding, $35 million from the American Rescue Plan, would go toward resurfacing and repaving 285 miles of roads in Hillsborough County.
“The proposed projects include 8 major roadway corridors, 89 neighborhoods, and 32 localized repair locations throughout the county, identified by condition inspection and commissioner input based on community feedback,” according to the staff recommendation‘s motion on the project, titled B-3. The BOCC had the county administration establish a roadway preservation project on Sept. 1, 2021. That project was set to have the $35 million in ARP funding, with the project list provided on Sept. 23.
The Sept. 23 establishment was when the county commissioners voted to approve its inclusion for fiscal year 2022 community improvement projects. In that approval, commissioners set aside the $35 million from the revenue replacement portion of the American Rescue Plan funding awarded to Hillsborough County.
Other projects approved in previous meetings included $100 million for public safety, affordable housing, food insecurity and stormwater improvements in the Palm River area, as well as some septic system issues.
Commissioner Kimberly Overman District 7, Countywide, Vice Chair of the commission, said the county has a need for $700 million in resurfacing repairs. Part of her interest in the use of the project funds, mainly in what parts of the county receive the money for repair, was based on the need for equitable recovery post-pandemic.
Overman noted that the funding from the American Rescue Plan was a one-time investment, not a repeating one, so the funds must be used in a way that is intended to build equity in parts of the county that are normally ignored.
To this end, the commission had requested a countywide equity map be developed to create an “equitable economic recovery” and a “more inclusive economy” of Hillsborough, to help the commissioners invest in communities that are underserved, per the guidance of President Joe Biden on the goal of the funding.
She said we must ensure “that we use these one-time funds for a more inclusive and equitable manner” for investment of the ARP funds in the communities that need it most.
Management of the funding would be broken up between local municipalities, such as Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace and the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, depending on the locations selected for repair.
Overman referenced Waters Avenue as a roadway that is a county road but in the city of Tampa that did not make a list of other road projects needing repair.
Commissioner Ken Hagan said that there are projects in the county that have been underfunded “for a decade” and there was “an enormous backlog of projects and a dire need” for work. The fact that the county now has a funding source that could spark development would serve the communities that have “begged” for help for years.
“This is the most amount of money we’ve had to do resurfacing in a long time,” John Lyons said, Assistant County Administrator, Public Works. He presented information on the state of the roads in the county. The presentation showed that there are 27,000 roadway segments, aggregated into a combination of local and major roads, made up of 7,250 lane miles of roads in Hillsborough.
Lyons’ presentation said that once the pavement condition begins to deteriorate, the quality of condition degrades quickly. Right now, 26 percent of the county’s roads are in poor to serious or failed condition, equaling more than 1,200 miles, according to Lyons.
Ideal funding over a 10-year period for resurfacing projects would be $25 million per year that would fix 240 lane miles per year, on average, according to Lyons. Current funding is set at $2.7 million per year, fixing 14 lane miles on average.
To “bring the system back into” good condition, Lyons said ideal funding would be $20 million per year for 100 lane miles per year, and have major roads resurfaced every 25 years. Current funding for that need is set at $2.7 million per year, to resurface nine lane miles per year, on average. Lyons said that was only about 10 percent of what is needed.
With the ARP resurfacing plan, Lyons said they could handle about 286 resurfacing lane miles, close to one-sixth of the county need. He said the majority of it would be focused on areas of Tampa and Temple Terrace, particularly District 4, which has the largest amount of roads in need of repair. The cost for the repair would be the $35 million from ARP resurfacing funds.
Further discussion continued over particulars of the county equity study and other infrastructure needs the BOCC is weighing, but soon after, commissioners made their decision.
Commissioner White motioned to put the use of funding to a vote, and the entire Board of Commissioners voted to approve the use 7-0, unanimously.
“Staff is in the process of procuring contractors through a competitive bidding process to perform this work, and so the actual costs will not be determined until the selected contractors provide pricing,” according to the B-3 documentation.