Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

CEOs, Hillsborough politicians: Address transportation problems now

TAMPA — A problem the region can no longer afford to ignore.

That's the consensus about transportation that emerged Tuesday from a discussion between local CEOs and elected Hillsborough city and county officials.

The chief executives said Tampa Bay's reputation for long commutes, sclerotic traffic and the lack of mass transit is increasingly an obstacle when it comes to recruiting companies and workers — especially young professionals who live in metro areas where they don't need cars.

"The young talent we want wants mass transit. Roads are important but not the whole picture," said Greg Celestan, CEO of the 150-employee defense firm Celestar and chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "People want different options."

Including rail, said Gary Sasso, CEO of Tampa's Carlton Fields law firm, which has 250 lawyers and staff in the West Shore district.

"It's critical to have a long-term vision of mass transit that includes rail," Sasso said. "There are rail developments under way in Miami and along Florida's east coast. We do not want to be left out."

Those comments came at a meeting of the transportation policy leadership group — a panel that includes the Hillsborough County Commission; the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City; and the chairwoman of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

On Tuesday, the group invited business leaders to talk about how transit — or its absence — fits into the larger economic development picture.

"We do not lack for roads or buses here," said Bryan Crino, president of downtown Tampa's Skyway Capital Partners. "Our real shortage is we do not have effective mass transit that people are willing to choose over getting into their cars."

The transportation policy group began meeting in May to get past the historic divisiveness and city-versus-county rivalries that have undermined previous efforts to address the area's transportation deficits.

In 2010, voters countywide rejected a proposed 1 cent increase in the sales tax to pay for a range of road improvements, added bus service and a new commuter rail system. The tax carried precincts in Tampa but failed in unincorporated Hillsborough, where suburbanites were less convinced of its benefits.

Now elected officials say their success at bringing in new business is increasingly tied to transit. They are not only talking about coming up with another plan, but edging toward the point where they propose a way to pay for it.

The difference, they said Tuesday, is there's a unity of purpose that hasn't been present before.

"The vision, the foresight is in place this time," Temple Terrace Mayor Frank Chillura said.

In 2010, before he was mayor, he didn't support the previous transit referendum because he didn't have enough information about its scope and impact. Doing the outreach to make sure businesses and voters buy into the plan is key, he said.

Now, Chillura said, "I just think it's the right start. The climate is right, the leaders are unified right now, and I think it's time we really start to put a plan in place. There's preplanning going on. We're not doing first and thinking later."

Another key, County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said, is having a sense of urgency.

"My only worry is that we're going to delay," Sharpe said.

"We're never going to get a chance like we have right now," agreed Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "If we don't do it now, shame on us."

Times business columnist Robert Trigaux contributed to this report.

. facts

If you go

A public meeting where anyone can share thoughts on transportation is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 6 in the 26th floor conference room of the Frederick B. Karl County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

CEOs, Hillsborough politicians: Address transportation problems now 07/23/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay child welfare agencies get additional state funding, plan to hire more social workers

    News

    TAMPA — Buoyed by the award of an additional $3 million in state funding, Eckerd Kids plans to hire more social workers to ease the strain on Hillsborough County's overburdened child welfare system.

    The child welfare system in Hillsborough County will get an additional $3 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal  year beginning July 1, according to Eckerd Kids, the agency contracted to run the system by the state.
  2. Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

  3. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

    Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Dickerson lf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Souza rf,
    Ramos c,
    Beckham 2b,
    Hechavarria ss,
    Cobb p

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  4. LaVar Ball appears at WWE event, son LaMelo uses slur

    Blogs

    LOS ANGELES  -- LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring. 
    The outspoken father of NBA Draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly-minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old son LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday's "WWE …

    LaVar Ball took off his shirt during a WWE broadcast.
  5. Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote

    National

    WASHINGTON — In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]