TBARTA meets after transportation bill passes

12/11/09 Arielle Stevenson
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In a special session this week, the State Legislature voted to pass the bill which will provide funding for commuter and light rail in central and south Florida. Many in the state felt that this legislation was critical to acquiring the federal funds necessary to build high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando. Today, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) discussed what the passing of that legislation means for the future of TBARTA’s transportation efforts. Bob Clifford is the executive director of TBARTA.

A statewide passenger rail commission was also created as a result of that legislation. The commission will look at rail and transit at a statewide policy perspective. Part of the bill includes the creation of state-run Florida Rail Enterprise. The program will have funding assigned to it starting in 2014, which will be used for state and regional transportation authority projects. Clifford says that TBARTA is well positioned to receive that funding.

Hillsborough County intends to place a referendum on next year’s ballot for a one cent sales tax increase to fund transportation. Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota are all chartered counties which can place such measures on their ballots. However, a motion presented today at TBARTA proposed allowing non-charter counties to propose such measures, as part of TBARTA’s legislative package for next year. But Citrus county commissioner John Thrumpson said he cannot commit to such a motion at this time.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio also spoke out against the motion.

The motion was withdrawn, but will likely be proposed at a later date. Meanwhile, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagen says they are still determining what the ballot language will be before their tentative March 3rd deadline.

Mayor Iorio says Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is working on plans for expanding their routes as part of TBARTA’s goals for increasing localized transit.

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard spoke with WMNF after the meeting about what he wants to accomplish at TBARTA’s next meeting.

Mayor Iorio says that TBARTA’s mission to improve and create transit in the Tampa Bay Area is a process that could extend for many years to come.

TBARTA will meet again in January to work on draft proposals and goals for their legislative package for next year. For more information visit http:.//tbarta.com.

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