Column: Keep working on transportation despite Greenlight Pinellas defeat

Published Nov. 5, 2014

Investing in infrastructure is key to ensuring our region's economic competitiveness. At the Tampa Bay Partnership, we support the development of a regional transportation system that will move people and goods throughout the area while connecting with our ports, airports and the rest of the state. And we are committed to this objective now, more than ever.

The defeats of Greenlight Pinellas in Pinellas County and MyRide/My Roads in Polk County were disappointing for those of us who have worked for years to improve transportation in the Tampa Bay area. The voters have spoken, and we need to learn from and understand their choice.

Even though the referendums failed to win approval, this is not the time for frustration or defeatism. Nor does it deter the partnership from leading the pursuit of transportation investments with confidence and vigor. This is the time to reiterate a continued commitment to building a better transportation system in Tampa Bay. This commitment needs to be ongoing, because it is critical for our future and transcends the results of any one election.

Though Greenlight Pinellas and MyRide/MyRoads did not pass, there are signs of progress. Never before has such a broad-based regional coalition come together for an endeavor like this. And nothing could be more representative of what the Tampa Bay Partnership strives for every day — uniting Tampa Bay and advocating for our interests as a region.

We should bear in mind that in a number of other U.S. metro areas such as St. Louis, Denver and Phoenix, successful transit systems have been launched after early efforts were defeated at the polls. The issues we are facing are not unique to Tampa Bay, and we can look to what happened in these cities to better understand how to forge a path forward.

Thanks to the efforts by the Pinellas and Polk campaigns, more people are discussing transportation in Tampa Bay, and we will continue to advocate for better transportation for our region.

The Pinellas and Polk initiatives are just one part of a larger, long-term effort that will require much more work by the partnership and our community partners on major priorities like the need for improved transportation options in Hillsborough County, our airports, our ports, and the continuing improvements to our interstate highways and bridges.

We hear consistently and emphatically from Tampa Bay's business leaders and top employers that our lack of a modern multimodal transportation system is a significant competitive disadvantage.

When businesses consider locating or growing here, they look primarily at the state of our workforce and transportation system. Improving education and transportation not only makes this a better place to live, it helps us compete with other major metro areas for the best workers and entrepreneurs.

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Investing in transportation is not an option; it is a necessity for the economic vitality of our region.

That is why we will continue to support efforts to integrate the Tampa Bay area's transportation infrastructure, like the Tampa International Airport expansion, the creation of a Westshore Multi-Modal Center, and improvements to the new Howard Frankland Bridge, along with projects that seek to better connect the rest of our state, such as All Aboard Florida.

The most important way to keep the momentum going is for our community, political and business leaders to keep working to transform the Tampa Bay area in a way that has never been done before.

Find a way to help move transportation initiatives forward in Hillsborough. If you live in Pinellas or Polk, help continue the conversation on the need for transportation options in those counties. And in our other area counties, get involved in looking at ways to improve transportation in Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee and Sarasota.

The more ways we can talk to our fellow citizens about why better transportation is critical, the greater our chances of future success. The future of our region depends on it.

Stuart Rogel is president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.