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Will DeSantis give Tampa the transportation money it’s seeking?

Federal funds are headed for Florida as the mayor focuses on the city’s transportation needs.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told reporters Tuesday that meeting with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault covered issues like mass transit, activating CSX tracks and improving streetcar service.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told reporters Tuesday that meeting with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault covered issues like mass transit, activating CSX tracks and improving streetcar service. [ Charlie Frago ]
Published Nov. 9

TAMPA — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor convened a meeting of high-ranking state Department of Transportation officials Tuesday for a morning of what she characterized as productive discussions on spending state transportation money, including the recent $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill.

Florida could receive $13 billion in federal funds to improve the state’s aging highways and $2.6 billion over five years to improve public transportation options, according to the White House.

But before Castor’s scheduled 1 p.m. press event, Secretary Kevin J. Thibault and regional FDOT secretary David Gwynn left town.

Castor spokesperson Adam Smith said the officials were under the impression their time in Tampa ended at noon.

The mayor and senior staff addressed reporters anyway at Sparkman Wharf for about 20 minutes, fielding questions from reporters eager to learn details of what had been discussed.

“We talked about mass transit options. We talked about the private CSX rail that we’ve discussed for years. And also the possibility of Brightline coming in,” said Castor, referring to a private rail operator that has announced plans to expand service to Tampa. The railroad company, CSX, owns the tracks that run through the city.

“I think we’re on the same page all the way around. Everybody understands there isn’t one solution for mobility. We have to look at every possibility,” Castor said.

Another topic, she said, was expanding bike lanes and other pathways that don’t put “people out on the street.” Better alternative transit options would connect Ybor City and Water Street to downtown and other parts of the city like Westshore.

“Biking, electric bikes, that kind of solution,” she said.

Florida will be getting 4 percent of the infrastructure bill, Castor said, adding that a lot of transportation dollars have been spent in recent years in South Florida and Orlando.

“We feel it is Tampa’s time. Right now, to get some funding for our transportation solutions,” Castor said. “There’s no guarantee when it comes to funding, but we were very encouraged.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said the infrastructure bill “seemed like a lot of pork barrel spending” during a Monday news conference in Zephyrhills. Castor said Tuesday she hasn’t spoken with the governor.

Related: How will Florida spend federal infrastructure money recently approved by Congress

“I have no doubt that we will be receiving our share of transportation funding,” the mayor said.

The city’s mobility director, Vik Bhide, said much of the federal infrastructure money will be delivered directly to local governments. He said most of the discussion focused on regional transit options, including ways to better connect Orlando and Tampa.