Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Transit planning spans the bay

The state's decision to help pay for a rail route over a new span of the Howard Frankland Bridge is a significant victory and an important challenge for the Tampa Bay area. Finally, the Department of Transportation recognizes the role that mass transit and state tax money must play in moving people throughout the region. This should improve the prospects for a 2014 transit referendum in Pinellas County, and it should inspire elected leaders on both sides of the bay to develop a joint rail plan to connect Hillsborough and Pinellas.

DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad announced the news Wednesday in a meeting with area political and business leaders organized by the Tampa Bay Partnership, the regional group that has been instrumental in advocating for a regional light rail system. It comes as the DOT is exploring options for replacing the northbound span of the Howard Frankland, and as area leaders have lobbied the department to include room for rail on a new bridge. DOT officials resisted committing state money for rail as recently as three weeks ago, arguing that rail could more than double the replacement span's $390 million estimated cost. They said the state would only preserve an "envelope" for rail or other forms of transit. Now the state is on record agreeing to finance a $25 million substructure for rail on any new span. And it is leaving open the possibility of financing the actual rail line across the bridge as long as Pinellas and Hillsborough agree to use compatible rail technology. This is a big step forward in the state's cooperation and thinking, and it calls for an equally bold move by local leaders.

The first order of business is for both sides to make spanning the bay with a rail connection a higher priority. Rail across the bay was part of Hillsborough's failed transit plan in 2010, and the Greenlight Pinellas referendum anticipates that connection would be made one day. The DOT's offer now clears the way for Tampa Bay to work together to secure the same state money that enabled South Florida and Central Florida to build regional rail systems. Pinellas needs to keep its regional vision in focus, and Hillsborough needs to catch up by bringing a viable transit package back to its voters.

More urgently, the Pinellas and Hillsborough county commissions, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the winner of Tuesday's St. Petersburg mayoral election should take the lead in building on the DOT's offer. They should quickly reach a consensus on how to design and pay for a light rail link across the Howard Frankland. Area legislators also need to think more clearly about how a modern transportation system can help this region better compete. Tampa Bay has fallen behind Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville in positioning itself to take advantage of rail. The sustained political and civic effort to get the DOT behind rail on the Howard Frankland shows that coalition-building and working together as a region is the key to success.

Comments
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18