TAMPA — Watch for activity downtown to pick up this week with the arrival of some GOP officials and media for pre-Republican National Convention meetings.
The convention's platform committee is scheduled to meet today and Tuesday at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. The RNC's summer meetings will be Wednesday and Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Tampa, and convention meetings on rules and credentials are scheduled for Friday at the Hyatt.
The meetings are not open to the public.
Bikes will be allowed downtown, to a point
The Tampa Bay area has a terrible reputation as a place to be a pedestrian or to ride a bicycle, and traffic conditions during the RNC — 450 charter buses on the move, road closures, times of unusually high congestion, high-security motorcades, crowds of protesters and squads of police engaging each other on the streets — don't promise to make cycling any easier.
Still, city officials say it's okay to ride your bicycle to or around some areas of downtown Tampa during the RNC.
Off-limits will be roads closed to cars and trucks for the convention. That includes Ashley Drive and Morgan Street south of Jackson Street; Marion, Pierce and Jefferson streets south of Kennedy Boulevard, and virtually everything west of Meridian Avenue and south of Washington and Whiting streets.
"If you're riding a bike, the same rules apply," says police Capt. Lee Bercaw, who has worked on the RNC transportation plan, "Just keep north of Whiting or east of Meridian."
Commuters can get RNC traffic info
To help commuters, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority has created a "Commuter Solutions" website — RNC-Traffic.com — with links to transportation information related to the convention.
The site has maps of available parking, planned road closures, transit detours and current traffic conditions. Want to carpool? Use the authority's free online ride-matching tool at tampabay rideshare.org.
While main convention activities will be in downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg, officials say commuters throughout the bay area could be affected by unplanned detours and road closures. Along with the website, the authority will post updates through Facebook and Twitter.
The site is designed to be viewable on any mobile device and also provides links to Florida's statewide 511 system, where users can find regional traffic alerts, and mytbi.com, which provides information on interstate construction projects.
Delegates can enroll in 'Newt University'
Former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich isn't getting a role on the stage at the RNC, but the convention said over the weekend that he will conduct workshops to support and expound on the messages of the convention.
Gingrich, a one-time college professor, will host "Newt University," a series of daily delegate workshops on the policy and U.S. history behind the GOP platform.
"The goal is to prepare the American people with the facts to dispel myths and misinformation," convention CEO William Harris said in announcing the program. "Speaker Gingrich is one of our party's most effective communicators, which is why he was asked to lead this effort."
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected], (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.