HART to study rail link to Tampa International Airport

07/19/10 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Today the board of HART, Hillsborough County’s transit agency, agreed to study light rail from downtown Tampa to the Tampa International Airport. Mary Shavalier is HART’s chief of strategic planning and program development.

"Well at today's board meeting the HART board made a decision on a very small amendment to the study area that we're looking at, to try to determine how we could try to enhance transit between downtown Tampa and the Westshore business district. We have been previously studying the area up until the airport, just the edge of the airport property and we have received some requests, including from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority that we look at in connection rate into the existing terminal as that first phase of how do we improve the transit service in Hillsboropugh county? With this approval today we are looking at, is it better bus service? Is it bus rapid transit or is light rail transit the best transit investment for that corridor? And we are addressing that area gain from the drifting terminal at the airport all the way into downtown Tampa."

"In plans for a future terminal, a new terminal at the airport, isn't there a light rail station built into those plans?"

"Yes, the Aviation Authority Master Plan has a concept, a program for incorporation either light rail or bus rapid transit into the airport; into the existing terminal as well as further north into their future terminal, the north terminal. They have got a concept all the way into connecting both those terminals as well as actually up to Hillsborough County. So that is in the Airport Master Plan. Our plans and the Hillsborough County plans do have rapid transit going from downtown Tampa, Westshore, the airport and actually all the way up to the northwest Hillsborough County, somewhere in the vicinity of Linebaugh. We have it in our general plans. This study that we're looking at is a more detailed look at what should that exact technology be and where should that alignment go."

"On the subject of transport from downtown to the airport, the Tampa City Council wants to look at high-speed rail from downtown to the airport. Is that something that HART is looking at?"

"No, our study scope is not looking at the high speed rail. We're looking at either bus service, or light rail transit."

"And my final question is, if voters pass the one cent sales tax in November, does that make it more likely to that there will be a light rail link or bus rapid transit from downtown to the Tampa Airport as the first link?"

"It'll be an important link in the early stages of our, it's in our early stages of our plans. Local money is critical to pay for some of the costs of developing a system such as light rail, as well as paying for the operating of that long term operating of the cost of that system. so getting local funding such as through the referendum would help us get these projects going."

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