Hillsborough County Transportation Task Force on transit funding.

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There was hot debate today about the future of transportation at the Hillsborough County Commission. Their Transportation Task Force is working out plans for governance and oversight of the latest road, bus and rail projects, but time is running short to decide who will oversee regional transportation funding.

Working with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART, the County’s Transportation Task Force is reaching out to municipalities, as they plan for transportation priorities. To fund these projects, the task force is recommending that voters approve a one cent sales tax, with seventy five percent going to bus infrastructure and rail; the other twenty-five percent going to non-transit projects such as roads, trails and intersections. County Commissioner Jim Norman argues that the referendum is just rail funding in disguise.

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe disagrees.

Planning and Infrastructure Services administrator Lucia Garsys claimed Phoenix, Ariz.’s transit system is successful. Commissioner Al Higgenbotham countered that that transportation costs drained other parts of their budget.

But it’s still uncertain if the penny sales tax will pass. Sharpe defends the tax.

But Kelly Cornelius, a member of Rural Lithia Area Neighborhood Defense still has concerns about the tax.

Some of the most pressing concerns of the meeting involve how much oversight of the tax revenue that the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, or TBARTA, will have. Sharpe says this might delay the meeting scheduled for March 3.

Sharpe also says that the language for the tax referendum should be a simple process, and could be discussed on March 17.

HART’s assessment of the transportation plans is focused on a transit model instead of a highway model for the first time, and they will discuss future plans at a board meeting next Monday in Ybor City. By Feb. 25 the Transportation Task Force hopes to have a clear vision of who will oversee transit tax funds.

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