TBARTA official briefs Council on transit plans

01/22/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Bob Clifford, the recently hired executive director for TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, gave an update about the agency to the Tampa City Council this morning. It’s part of his mission to visit all of the local governments within the authority’s region early this year, to keep momentum going for a regional transit system.

Plans currently call for the Hillsborough County Commission to place a referendum on the 2010 ballot to allow citizens to vote on raising taxes to begin getting local funding to meet matching requirements from the state and federal government.

Clifford detailed the ultimate goal of where such a system would run. He said education would be crucial in seeing that 2010 ballot measure passed.

His point is crucial. There are seven local transit agencies within the TBARTA umbrella. Board members will be hashing that out over the next few months.

There is a light rail connection with Clearwater to the Gateway section in Pinellas.

Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena was elected to City Council some 22 years ago. At that time, she said the region needed mass transit; today she mused on what might have been if the community had rallied around it at that time. But she said the Council was determined to do what it can to see that happen now.

Councilman John Dingfelder was in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration earlier this week. He said the area around the Metro station near where his daughter lives has undergone dramatic development in recent years.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern told Clifford that the city already has an asset that could help them get matching funds from the federal government – and that’s the oft-criticized Street Car system.

City Council Chairman Thomas Scott said work needs to begin now to persuade Hillsborough County citizens to support a referendum on a tax for mass transit.

The January TBARTA Board meeting takes place tomorrow morning at the University Connect Building on the USF Campus at 9:30.

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