Legislature approves $1 million for regional transit plan

A Hillsborough Area Regional Transit busA HART Bus Route 30 stops at the Northwest Transfer center in Tampa on Friday, September 28, 2017. Just as HART officials have to provide a 10-year plan for the county's bus agency, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority will now construct a 10-year regional plan for transit projects in Tampa Bay. (OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times )
A Hillsborough Area Regional Transit busA HART Bus Route 30 stops at the Northwest Transfer center in Tampa on Friday, September 28, 2017. Just as HART officials have to provide a 10-year plan for the county's bus agency, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority will now construct a 10-year regional plan for transit projects in Tampa Bay. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times )
Published March 12

The Florida Legislature has approved $1 million for the recently revamped Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority to create a 10-year plan for transit projects in the five-county area.

Known as a Regional Transit Development Plan, the clunky term refers to 10-year plan that would outline what projects the region should focus on, such as bus rapid transit, streetcars or rail, and when they should be built.

Last year, the Legislature restructured TBARTA to focus solely on transit. That decision also narrowed the scope of member counties from seven to five. Citrus and Sarasota didn't make the cut. The agency and its 10-year plan, instead, will focus on Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas.

This appropriation, should Gov. Rick Scott approve it, gives the agency $1 million to hire a contractor. Michael Case, Principal Planner and Project Manager for TBARTA, expects the project to take about a year.

That means it will wrap up around the same time as a state-funded initiative to chose a preferred regional transit project. Planners are still refining that concept, but currently a 41-mile bus rapid transit line between Wesley Chapel, Tampa and St. Petersburg is the lead concept.

TBARTA's 10-year plan compliments the regional premium transit feasibility plan, Case said, which could take as long as 40 or 50 years to complete.

“It’s like a bridge between the vision and actual implementation,” Case said of TBARTA’s effort. “It’s more of a fine grained,  incremental approach and will outline the actions that need to happen in order to implement the whole vision.”

TBARTA's plan would coordinate with local transit agencies, like those in Pinellas and Hillsborough, and would prioritize projects, highlighting those most likely to be built that year, Case said. Those determinations would be made based on funds available, feasibility of the project, and how ready a project is for construction.

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