Regional Transit Forum Created by Roxanne Escobales02/23/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday
Yesterday evening at 6:30 when rush hour traffic should have been tapering off, the Howard Frankland Bridge heading east into Tampa was backed up into Pinellas County. The area’s increasing congestion due to the rapid growth of the past ten years has local elected officials scrambling to find answers. At the behest [bi-hest] of Pinellas County Commission Chair Ronnie Duncan, this morning in Tampa leaders from Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and the cities within them, met to discuss regional solutions to the growing transit problems.
Commissioner Ronnie Duncan said about a million more people live in the Tampa Bay area compared to 14 years ago.
ACT: ‘quality of life”
Armed with the latest transit study, the Tampa Bay area’s Florida Department of Transportation secretary, Don Skelton, said over the past 15 years, delays in travel time have increased by 110 percent.
All forms of transit solutions were discussed. From high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to bus rapid transit to the overriding favourite – commuter and light rail. Most existing rail plans map a route following existing C-S-X lines that travel on land around the bay. ST Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said getting across the bay needs to be an integral part of any rail system.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said the area’s counties and cities must work together if there’s to be any success.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik unsuccessfully pushed for a light rail system around ten years ago when he was in office. While he clearly favors rail, he told the forum that whatever form they choose, the time to act is now.
By the end of the morning, the group agreed to formulate a detailed plan by combining the existing ones of each county. A transit working group was formed of elected officials, and the issue will be revisited in six months to check on progress.