Beltway proposal discussed, dissed at Tampa City Council by Mitch E. Perry

09/14/06

Today the embattled director of the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority came before the Tampa City Council to discuss transportation projects, including the new proposed beltway.

The 100 mile road would link Manatee, Hillsborough , Pasco and Pinellas Counties – but has been criticized by Tampa officials as not being the answer to gridlock on roads into downtown Tampa.

Last week, in a position paper, Mayor Pam Iorio expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the beltway, and her support for light rail projects

As Ralph Mervine from the Expressway Authority came before the Council today, he was met with more of that same reaction. . Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena, a former City planner, says she believes the beltway promotes sprawl (roll tape#1 o.q.�in our region�)

Councilman John Dingfelder said it would be good for the Council to hear about why the roadway is justified.

Mervin said that was appreciated (roll tape#2 o.q.�just road�)

The mostly negative reaction to the Beltway – at least by officials in Tampa, seems to have jump started the discussion about having rail become part of the solution to the Tampa Bay Area’s Traffic needs. In addition to Mayor Iorio’s position paper last week emphasizing the need for light rail, state legislators are looking into having a Regional Authority that will look at all types of public transportation for the bay area next year.

Earlier this week, officials from Portland Oregon came to Tampa to discuss street cars. Tampa and Portland began their electric streetcar lines around the same time earlier this decade – but while Portland’s has thrived, Tampa’s has struggled, mainly serving tourists and not residents.

City Councilwoman Mary Alvarez (roll tape#3 o.q.�parts of the county�)

Councilwoman Rose Ferlita, running for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission, indicated that she is in support of looking at mass transit – which would be notable in that the County Commission has been reluctant to support that in the past (roll tape#4 o.q.�it’s not just one anymore�)

Expressway Authority Director Ralph Mervine has been under fire of late…Hillsborough County Commissioner Thomas Scott has called for his resignation, and the Authority was investigated by the state, after accusations were made that it violated ethics policies and the state’s Sunshine laws when changing its legal counsel last month. But the state’s investigation found that no laws were broken.

Today, Mervine sounded relieved simply be talking about mass transit projects (roll tape#5 o.q.�by the Mayor’s paper�)

Mervine says he will work with the City’s Transporation staff, and Hartline, and address the City Council about looking at the different transportation options for the City in a few months time.

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