REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY PROPOSED FOR BAY AREA by Roxanne Escobales08/28/06
Gather 200 politicians and business leaders into one room and the last thing you might expect is for them to agree on one thing. But thatâ€™s exactly what happened today in Sabal Park, Tampa. Everyone agreed that the Tampa Bay area must address the increasing transportation problems the region faces. As WMNFâ€™s Roxanne Escobales reports, Tampa Bay is one step closer to forming its own 8-county transit authority.
ACT: [SANSOM] The time is to start doing something, not keep planning
That word of warning comes from the Florida House Transportation Committee chair Representative Ray Sansom, speaking to a transit summit held today in Tampa. Sansom has some experience when it comes to effectively addressing transportation problems. A year ago the Panhandle formed its own multi-county transit authority, much like Bay area leaders would like to do.
State Representative and Chair of the Bay area legislative delegation Bill Galvano of Bradenton is one of the political leaders calling for swift change. Galvano along with state Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and economic development organization the Tampa Bay Partnership helped set up todayâ€™s transit summit.
ACT: [Galvano] â€œlook at all forms of transportationâ€¦ get it done todayâ€?
The Tampa Bay Partnership works across seven of the regionâ€™s counties to grow new business to the area and cultivate existing ones. Stuart Rogel, the partnershipâ€™s president and CEO said the organization is in contact with business communities throughout the world. They consistently say the same thing:
Attendees at the transit summit heard from the Department of Transportation about the need to buy land in order to have the right-of-ways to build a transit corridor. This corridor would connect projected areas of growth to urban hubs.
But to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio looking at all forms of transportation means getting better bus service and a light rail system operating in the Bay area. For instance Iorio would like to see high-density areas served by better mass transit, and to her that means connecting the downtown areas of St. Petersburg and Tampa. She said that the model presented today needs to be fine-tuned but ultimately itâ€™s a step in the right direction.
Pinellas County Commission Chairman Ken Welch said that a regional transit authority would be much stronger force to be reckoned with than individual, single-county entities.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard also sits on the board of the Pinellas Mobility Initiative. He said that a light rail is a necessity for the future of the Bay area.
Galvano said that to maintain fiscal independence, the proposed transit authority would look at alternative ways of funding any new construction. Start-up money would come from the legislature, if his bill for the authority is passed. But private business is a necessary partner in any public venture.
ACT: public private partnerships
Privately owned transportation projects include toll roads and with rail, concessionaire agreements.
Galvano said that after the input and feedback from todayâ€™s summit, drafting of the bill would start as early as next week with a roundtable discussion with other state legislators.
The bill is likely to be put forward in the 2007 spring legislative session.
For WMNF News in Sabal Park, Tampa, Iâ€™m Roxanne Escobales.