Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Light rail study will help decide which segment in Tampa to build first

TAMPA — Which segment of a proposed light rail line should be built first?

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio says a leg from downtown to the University of South Florida should be the top priority.

Others advocate for a line connecting downtown to the West Shore business district.

A $1.5 million study recently approved by the board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will help answer the question.

Iorio believes the study will make her case.

"You're not bringing in the commuters if you focus on downtown to West Shore," she said. "It makes very good sense to have it as the second route. But I can't imagine any study would come back and say it's the very first link."

The analysis is a required next step in applying for federal funding for the project, said David Armijo, chief executive of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

PB Americas will update previous studies, completed in 2002, that cost about $15 million.

Plans initially called for only re-examining a 13.5-mile connection between downtown and USF that largely runs along existing CSX tracks with the assumption that portion of the line would be completed first.

That's because HART already moves about 2 million people a year between downtown and the USF area on its most widely used bus routes, Armijo said.

"It's a huge number," he said. "If you go west, it's maybe half of that."

But some business owners pushed to expand the study, saying the 4.7-mile section between downtown and West Shore should have priority.

The West Tampa Chamber of Commerce board voted to encourage HART to look at that segment, saying it would benefit the area.

"Everyone talks about light rail being a catalyst for redevelopment," said Ed Turanchik, a developer and member of the chamber's board.

"If you really want to see that happen, the chamber thinks the downtown-to-West Shore line is going to have the greatest opportunity for redevelopment to occur."

Likely riders of the line would be people commuting to jobs downtown and in the West Shore business district, and visitors to the Tampa Convention Center downtown staying in West Shore hotels, he said.

Ron Rotella, executive director of the Westshore Alliance, said his organization doesn't have a preference regarding which segment should go first.

"It ought to be the one that has the chance of being most successful," he said.

But he notes that if Florida receives economic stimulus money to build high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, it would bolster the need for the downtown to West Shore link.

"If we're going to have connections from the Orlando airport to Disney World, down Interstate 4 to Tampa, it almost begs the question: Shouldn't you be looking at a connection from downtown into Tampa International Airport?" he said.

Mark Sharpe, a county commissioner and HART board member, said ultimately it won't matter which line is built first.

"It all works together," he said.

Among other things, the analysis will look at potential ridership and how to get people from rail stations to places such as Moffitt Cancer Center and Busch Gardens, Armijo said.

The study also will look at route options, such as heading north up Florida Avenue instead of following existing CSX tracks, and west along the Interstate 275 median instead of Cypress Street.

At the request of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, the House this week approved $300,000 in its appropriations bill to help pay for the study.

Hillsborough County voters likely will be asked to consider a sales tax in November 2010 to help pay for the line. Early estimates put the cost of construction at $70 million a mile.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Light rail study will help decide which segment in Tampa to build first 07/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 25, 2009 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) takes the field to start the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  3. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  4. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  5. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.