Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Policymakers see role for HART in transportation planning

TAMPA — Elected leaders who have been meeting for months to plot Hillsborough County's transportation future have yet to talk about actual projects and how to pay for them.

But a consensus began to emerge Wednesday on who should oversee the building and operating of new roads, expanded bus service and planning for commuter rail. That may be the Hills­borough Area Regional Transit Authority, the county's bus agency, said members of the Transportation for Economic Development Policy Leadership Group.

The group, consisting of county commissioners and the mayors of Hillsborough's three cities, said HART would need to be reimagined. For one, its board of directors would have to be expanded to include more elected officials and people skilled in planning roads.

It also would need to include officials with knowledge of economic development because the leadership group wants to prioritize projects based on how much they encourage job creation.

So why HART, which has been criticized over the years for its management of the bus system? Members of the policy group said the one thing they don't want to do is create a new government entity to do the work.

"I don't think the public wants any part of that," said County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Members noted that HART has experience running a transit system, which will likely be a part of what the policy group recommends; it is a major recipient of federal grant money; it has its own taxing authority; and its governing board already includes a mix of elected leaders from the county and two of its cities. (One or more Plant City representatives would need to be added.)

"I think the basic structure at HART is in place," County Commissioner Kevin Beckner said.

How that would happen remains murky. County Administrator Mike Merrill and County Attorney Chip Fletcher said they would work with their counterparts in the cities to craft a road map to a new HART. That likely would include options involving other government agencies, such as the planning commission, which at least one board member said also should be considered.

HART was created by an interlocal agreement between the governments whose residents it serves, said Fletcher, who has represented both the city of Tampa and HART. That agreement is enabled by state law, which spells out certain parameters under which transit agencies operate and are governed.

Fletcher said he needs to research how changes the policy group envisions can happen.

County commissioners voted unanimously last year to create the policy group to figure out ways to pay for transportation needs for which they have little money. A transit and road-building tax proposed in 2010 was soundly defeated by voters.

That proposal was largely driven by staff planners. For this discussion, Merrill recommended that the county's elected leaders steer the discussion. For months they have been hearing presentations and have focused on ways they can use transportation to support job creation.

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe agreed HART might be the logical agency to head the effort. But he said it is not equipped for the task as it stands today.

He again pleaded for greater urgency, joking that his 12-year-old son would be eligible to run for the County Commission before the current effort bears fruit.

Policymakers see role for HART in transportation planning 01/15/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy


    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  2. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday


    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  3. Editorial: Trump assaults rule of law by attacking attorney general


    Jeff Sessions was a terrible choice for attorney general, and the policies he has pursued in his brief tenure — cracking down on immigrants, bullying sheriffs, prosecuting low-level offenders to the max — are counterproductive. But the stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Sessions this …

    The stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Attorney General Jess Sessions this week assault the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law.
  4. Iowa group sues United over death of giant rabbit, Simon


    DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa businessmen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against United Airlines over the death of Simon, a giant rabbit whose lifeless body was discovered in a kennel after a flight from London to Chicago.

    In this May 8, 2017 file photo, attorney Guy Cook speaks a news conference while looking at a photo of Simon, a giant rabbit that died after flying from the United Kingdom to Chicago, in Des Moines, Iowa. A group of Iowa businessmen have filed a lawsuit against United Airlines over the death of Simon. The businessmen filed the lawsuit Wednesday, July 26, 2017, more than three months after airline workers found the continental rabbit named Simon dead. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]
  5. Elderly Brooksville woman dies in Wednesday crash


    BROOKSVILLE — An 87-year-old woman died following a Wednesday morning car crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.