Regional visioning guru Robert Grow: High speed rail is a great gift... don't muck it up
The comment comes from an important observer named, by coincidence, Robert Grow (in photo, below), who is the godfather of Envision Utah-- a long-term planning organization -- and more widely viewed as one of the pioneers of regional visioning or long-term, smart growth planning. He spoke at Tampa's convention center Friday before a regional group called One Bay that was presenting a vision of what the Tampa Bay could be in 2050.
I'm not sure I've ever been to a meeting where the word "regional" was positively expressed so often, by so many.
Here's my April 18 column about One Bay's vision. The 2007 photo above, taken in the early stages of the One Bay movement, shows Tampa Bay business leaders and public officials "building" the Tampa Bay of 2050 -- using Legos -- to accommodate 3,2 million more people and 1.5 million more jobs. The emphasis was on more higher density housing and job clusters, quality public transportation to ease congestion, more preserved green spaces and a clear aversion to more sprawl.
What caught my ear on Friday was Grow's offhand remark that Tampa Bay has received a gift -- early recognition from the federal government and $1 billion-plus in funding -- to be one of the first regions to participate in a high speed rail project. "You have no idea," he told his Tampa Bay audiences of business and public leaders Friday, how jealous so many other parts of the country are... areas that wanted to get in on the first round of high speed rail in America.
Grow's message seems pretty clear to me. Take advantage of this rail opportunity -- and don't screw it up for the rest of the country with poor management of the project, unnecessary delays and excessive bickering.
Obviously Tampa Bay is one endpoint of a high speed rail line. Orlando is the other, for now. To that end, the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Orlando area's Central Florida Partnership have scheduled a second super-regional leadership conference next month in Polk County. You can bet high speed rail will be a prominent agenda item.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist