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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas rail and tax plan remains cloudy



ST. PETERSBURG -- If the regional transportation chief doesn't know what location is Pinellas County's top priority for rail, it doesn't say much for the public's understanding -- or support for a tax increase to pay for it.

"In every other county within TBARTA, I can tell you what their priorities are. I'm not sure in Pinellas County," Bob Clifford, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority, said during a workshop of 40 city and county officials today.

"I'm not sure who I go to to answer this question."

That doesn't bode well for a 2010 referendum to raise the Pinellas sales tax for light rail and adding bus service, likely pushing it back a year or two. Clifford said it's more likely that Hillsborough County would do a a rail vote in 2010, and then other counties would follow.

TBARTA is expected to determine which bay area projects to do first in the next two months, so Pinellas officials plan to iron out county priorities within a month. After September, polling for transit officials should gauge how much public support exists for a tax increase for rail.

Jeff Danner, chairman of the St. Petersburg City Council, said the blunt talk didn't surprise him. And it might be necessary to make sure everyone gets on the same page.

"We're at step two of 20, instead of at the front," Danner said.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:02pm]


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