Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Regional leaders talk transportation in Tampa

TAMPA — U.S. Rep. John Mica set a foreboding tone in his videotaped message Thursday to the more than 200 attendees of the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Summit.

The Winter Park Republican said Tampa Bay is about to be known as only the second of the nation's 30 largest metropolitan areas without fixed transit — meaning commuter rail. The other is northern Kentucky, which has topographical challenges.

"The bad news for the Tampa Bay regional area is, you haven't done anything," Mica said, before trying to sound a more optimistic note. "The good news is you haven't screwed it up yet."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe organized Thursday's summit at Tampa International Airport, which included planners and civic leaders from Orlando to St. Petersburg, Sarasota to Manatee County. He is seeking to spur action on using all forms of transportation to link those areas and foster development of an economic super region.

What he heard was that each of the counties represented is moving forward — some in collaboration, some on their own — in seeking to develop multiple forms of transportation, regardless of what Hillsborough is doing.

Attendees heard from a representative of the SunRail Commuter Line, the project under construction that will ultimately link Volusia County and Osceola County with Orlando International Airport. By using existing rail lines, the first phase of the project has taken just a few years to complete and the first 32 miles should open in the spring.

That will be great timing because, as MetroPlan Orlando Executive Director Harry Barley told those in attendance, the stretch of Interstate 4 that travels along the rail line is about to get a major 21-mile, six-year overhaul. Private contractors will be installing toll lanes aimed at through traffic, taking pressure off local commuters but causing jams in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Florida East Coast Industries vice president Rusty Roberts outlined his company's plans to build a privately financed and operated higher-speed commuter line between Orlando and Miami. He made no mention of extending to it Tampa.

The summit also included presentations from backers of Greenlight Pinellas, a referendum proposal that would create rail, roadwork and a large expansion of bus service in that built-out peninsula if passed in 2014. Polk County officials outlined their own proposal for a referendum to benefit transit next year.

Hillsborough County elected officials have been meeting for months to discuss ways to better tie transportation decisions based on how much they spark economic development. They have yet to start talking about specific proposals.

Comments

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT ó One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the presidentís call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Published: 02/22/18
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention ó the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House ó CNNís Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Published: 02/22/18
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republicanís affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Published: 02/22/18
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trumpís Mar-a-Lago Club, the galaís organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Published: 02/22/18
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Published: 02/22/18
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. Thatís because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18
Focused on Cubaís future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

Focused on Cubaís future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

TAMPA ó One highlight of a congressional delegationís visit to Cuba this week was an impromptu meeting with President Raul Castro.But not for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.The Tampa Democrat joined five other Democrats on the trip, in part to investigate th...
Published: 02/21/18
Melania Trumpís parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on Ďchain migrationí

Melania Trumpís parents are legal permanent residents, raising questions on Ďchain migrationí

The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple...
Published: 02/21/18
Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governorís race

Alex Trebek will moderate a Republican debate in the Pennsylvania governorís race

Weíll take "surprising side gigs" for $1,000! "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek will moderate a debate among Republican hopefuls vying for the Pennsylvania gubernatorial nomination.The longtime game show star will be questioning candidates at an Oct. 1 for...
Published: 02/21/18