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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Turanchik offers transit, development proposals

20

January

TAMPA -- The question of how to connect Tampa International Airport to a proposed high-speed rail line that starts in Orlando and ends just north of downtown Tampa has bedeviled advocates of the project. In November, when Hillsborough County voters rejected a new one-penny sales tax to pay for local light rail projects, they killed a key link between the airport and the downtown high-speed rail station.
 
Now mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik says he has the answer.
 
Think Disney's Magical Express, Turanchik says, referring to the Magic Kingdom's complimentary airport transportation service. Think luxury buses that run on an express route between the airport and the high-speed rail station currently planned for somewhere near Florida Avenue and Scott Street. The buses could have a dedicated route built in the median of Interstate 275. Such a service ought to have "check-through" baggage handling, so that passengers would not need to touch their bags until they reached their final destination. That would facilitate the creation of package deals that include airfare to TIA, then synchronized bus and high-speed rail service to the Disney area, Turanchik says. Over time, the service could be expanded to serve Busch Gardens, the University of South Florida and the Pinellas beaches. Funding to build the interstate part of the project could come from "existing transportation revenues," he says, while operating funds would come from the high-speed train operator, ticket revenues, partnerships with the airlines and tourism companies and possibly local hotel-bed tax funds. Done right, he says, it's possible no operating subsidies would be needed.
 
Turanchik also proposes the creation of a separate 5-mile transit, urban development and high-tech innovation corridor, something he would call "TBnet," to connect the airport, downtown, the high-speed rail station and Ybor City. By retooling roads that generally run parallel to I-275, Turanchik says the route could handle express bus service and foster the development of higher density urban housing and the increased use of emerging technologies such as energy-efficient smart energy grids, solar energy and recharging stations for electric cars. To pay for various aspects of this proposal, Turanchik suggests using unspecified existing revenues, plus grants, private sector investment, federal tax credits aimed at developing low-income areas and the possible creation of a tax-increment transit financing district. Such a district would funnel the additional property tax revenue generated by new development back into further developments within the district.
 
Turanchik's previous policy proposals in the mayor's race include creating a program to help residents buy and rehabilitate foreclosed homes, making them eligible for Federal Housing Authority financing and affordable for families earning $25,000 a year or less. He also wants to bring Florida's new Property Assessed Clean Energy program to Tampa. That program allows cities and counties to borrow money on the bond market and use the funds to pay the upfront costs of projects such as replacing windows, adding insulation, and installing energy-efficient air conditioning, solar energy systems, wind-resistant shingles and storm shutters. The program is voluntary, and participating property owners repay the cost of making the improvements through an assessment on their property tax bills.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 6:21am]

    

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