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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mulhern convenes meeting on high speed rail



Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern on Thursday led a special discussion on high speed rail where council and community members pressed state officials for a station at Tampa International Airport. Barack Obama awarded Florida $1.25 billion in federal stimulus money for a line between Tampa and Orlando and eventually Miami. It will be the nation's first true high speed rail line. Orlando has three stations, including one at its airport. Miami will also have an airport stop. Tampa has one station in downtown Tampa. Mulhern said the line should also go to the airport and Pinellas beaches.

Kevin Thibault, executive director of the Florida Rail Enterprise, said that can be looked at later. "What we need to do right now is focus on this first step," he said.  "There's nothing that precludes other connectivity.'

Some have argued that the airport would be better served by light rail, including a line from the high speed rail station downtown. But Hillsborough County's light rail plan depends on passage of a 1 cent sales tax by voters in November. "I am very much in favor of light rail," Mulhern said. "But we don't know if we are going to get it."

State officials said local leaders need to agree on plans for serving the airport. Space exists in the I-275 median for some type of mass transit, but right-of-way still needs to be acquired in the Westshore area between the Interstate and the airport. Attorney Ron Weaver suggested starting that process now, while real estate is cheap. "Make job one the connection between downtown Tampa and the airport," he said.

Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 3:40pm]


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