Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority considers multi-level bridge to link Tampa with Pinellas
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09/30/11 Josh Holton
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This morning Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority passed their budget for the next fiscal year, which will go into effect tomorrow. TBARTA expects that soon there could be improvements to bridges and streamlined bus services in the region.

The 2.4 million dollars in projected expenses is 700,000 dollars more than last year’s budget. But that includes nearly twice the federal funding compared to last year, plus revenue from the Vanpool program. TBARTA chair Ronnie Duncan said about a third of the staff is gone, and their agency-paid health benefits have declined.

Part of TBARTA’s goal is to improve connectivity over the next few decades, and many corridors are being considered for revitalization. Jeff Novotny is with American Consulting Engineers, and he said the Howard Frankland Bridge from Tampa to St. Pete is long over do for replacement.

Novotny proposed building a replacement bridge beside the existing northbound bridge, in addition to another bridge that could be used for a light rail system, or even Bus Rapid Transit. One innovative idea even proposed stacking the special use bridge above one of the existing bridges.

Since property taxes significantly play into revenue for the organization, Citrus County Commissioner Rebecca Bays said there should be immediate action on such a project.

Many of the buses that might cross the proposed special use bridge would come from either Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. The two transit services already cross into each other’s counties. Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes said TBARTA could play a role in helping to merge the services.

And with comparable operating budgets and fleet sizes, Hayes, said that streamlining services would play well into TBARTA’s mission of connecting the area as a whole.

Bays said that the topic has come up several times at TBARTA board meetings, but no formal actions have been taken yet.

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