Saturday, May 26, 2018
Transportation

Tampa trolley study identifies seven expansion alternatives

TAMPA — There are a half-dozen ways Tampa could expand the TECO Line Streetcar — north to Tampa Heights, west to Hyde Park, looping through downtown — but each has its own mix of costs, benefits and challenges.

So Tuesday night, consultants studying the future of the Tampa trolley took the options to about 75 residents, business owners and neighborhood activists at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor City campus.

"This is starting to try to understand what the tradeoffs are," said Steve Schukraft of HDR, the city's consultant on the study.

Currently, the streetcar runs just 2.7 miles, starting in Ybor City and going south and west along Channelside Drive, then north past the Tampa Convention Center to the intersection of Franklin and Whiting streets.

The longer the expansion, the higher the cost of tracks, overhead wiring and stations, which HDR expects would be about a quarter-mile apart. Crossing CSX's railroad tracks or the Hills­borough River also would cost more.

At this point, the study is about 25 percent done and has yet to consider other technical factors, including whether Tampa should switch to a different kind of streetcar vehicle. Those will come later.

The $1.6 million study has looked at seven possible expansions. On Tuesday, the crowd favored three in an instant poll using their cellphones to vote:

• 2.67 miles of new track and eight new stations along Franklin Street north to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights, then looping west past Water Works Park before heading south again on Franklin. This could connect downtown subdistricts, help workers cover the first and last miles of their commutes and have relatively lower costs. But it would still cross the railroad, have to go under Interstate 275 and affect parking on Franklin.

• 2.6 miles and eight stations for a north-south extension paired along Florida Avenue and Tampa Street. This has many of the same issues, good and bad, as the Franklin Street alignment.

• 4.12 miles and 12 stations going north on Franklin Street, then east along Seventh Avenue to Ybor City. This could help commuters and create connections across downtown, but it's long.

Four other options won less support:

• 4.66 miles and 13 stations from Ybor City, west through the northern rim of downtown, over the Cass Street bridge and north to Blake High School. This would support development, particularly in the West River area targeted by City Hall, and have low traffic impact. But it's long, would cross the river and wouldn't have the best service to the downtown core.

• 4.93 miles and 13 stations from the Channel District, through the central part of downtown, across the Cass Street bridge and into North Hyde Park. This would create cross-downtown connections and help economic development, but is long and would cross the river, the railroad and go under the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

• 3.27 miles and nine stations to extend the trolley from the convention center across the Brorein Street bridge into Hyde Park. Along with having a river crossing, this doesn't appear to do much to create connections across downtown, spur development or help commuters.

• 2.46 miles and eight stations to create a downtown loop going north on Franklin Street, then east along Zack and Twiggs streets to the Channel District. This is shorter and would connect downtown subdistricts, but still crosses the railroad and goes under the expressway.

And there were plenty of questions: How about a route along Nick Nuccio Parkway? Or Ashley Drive? Or something that could connect to a Cross-Bay Ferry?

"I think there are better options than the ones they presented," said Brian Ray, who owns property at the north end of downtown.

The city's consultants expect to develop cost estimates over the next three to four weeks and gather more public reaction at the city's website: tampagov.net/capital_projects/studies/streetcar_extension_study.

Another public workshop is expected in mid to late summer.

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