Tampa City Council meets with Hillsborough County Commission to discuss transportation

02/09/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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The election season is just months away, and local officials are already planning how to approach voters with ballot initiatives. Today was a big day for local government, as Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commission talked about the school district, and how they will move local rail plans forward in the fall.

Now that Florida has been granted one and a quarter billion dollars in federal stimulus money to fund high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando, local officials are figuring out how high speed rail passengers will get around Tampa. The plans for light rail could provide alternative transportation for local commutes, and County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says that the government should clarify these plans for the public.

The light rail could be funded by a one cent sales tax on the ballot this fall, but at one point the tax was proposed to be even lower. Sharpe says anything lower might not fully fund the project.

But the County is divided on the issue. County Commissioner Jim Norman claims that many taxpayers will be angry about having more of their money spent on government projects. City Council Member Linda Saul-Sena responded this way.

And City Councilmember Mary Mulhern said that there needs to be a political marketing campaign to involve grassroots organizations in getting the message out.

Chair of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chuck Sykes lives near Bruce B. Downs, and missed a meeting this morning due to congestion in that corridor. He thinks that having transportation alternatives could ease that congestion.

The Tampa Bay Partnership has started a referendum committee that plans to engage private and public groups in educating the public about light rail. Sykes says that committee will work out the language of the ballot referendum for the fall.

Sykes says the language of the referendum has been a major concern, and may be discussed at a Transportation Task Force meeting on March 3rd.

CEO of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce Bob Rohrlack was pleased to hear that the government would supplement the private sector by planning an education campaign for light rail.

Tomorrow the Hillsborough County Commission will hold a transportation workshop at 1:30 PM at the County Center. There will also be a Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority meeting to discuss light rail and other issues on February 10th at the Florida Department of Transportation district seven office.

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