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Robert Trigaux

Business groups across bay start to come together on regional mass transit plan




Wake up and good morning. The wheels may still be creaking slowly but efforts to rally more business support for Tampa Bay mass transit are gaining some speed. The latest: The creation of a political issue committee called Moving Hillsborough Forward which will advocate for passage of the referendum supporting transportation, rail and road improvements throughout Hillsborough County. Gary Sasso, the head of the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa and current chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership economic development group, will chair Moving Hillsborough Forward. ( Sasso photo: Atoyia Deans, St. Petersburg Times.) Sasso makes the classic business argument for getting involved: If Tampa Bay twiddles its thumbs on transportation, it will get left behind.

"We can no longer afford to do nothing. We are already losing economically to competitor regions that have invested in their transportation systems. We need this comprehensive transportation plan to attract new businesses to Hillsborough to keep and multiply jobs.”

The political group hopes to become a broad based coalition made up of local businesses, neighborhood groups, community leaders, elected officials and members of the public committed to improving transportation choices across Hillsborough County. County commissioners approved wording of the ballot language Wednesday. It calls for 75 percent of a one-cent sales surtax to be used on "transit, including local rail and an expanded bus system for express, local and neighborhood service." The final 25 percent goes for road improvements and other transportation projects. Hillsborough voters decide on the ballot issue in the November 2010 general election.

Johnlongstpeteareachamberhandout Across the bay in Pinellas County, business leaders are starting to throw their support to the Hillsborough cause, well aware that their Tampa brethren are carrying the greatest political water to make mass transit happen. John Long, who heads the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, says his group will rally behind its economic counterparts in Hillsborough. On Monday, March 22, the chamber-backed Pinellas County Transit Summit convenes at the Hilton St. Petersburg in Carillon Park to discuss how better transportation could influence everything from local universities and colleges to tourism.

Says Long (in photo): It's all about getting prepared for the possibility of a similar referendum and surtax in Pinellas to support its own mass transit expansion -- meant to link with a regional system -- perhaps as early as 2011.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist


[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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