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  1. Opinion

Column: Move forward on transit

Description: BL_Peoplenotes032411  5. Sandy Murman
Description: BL_Peoplenotes032411 5. Sandy Murman
Published Jul. 15, 2016

Now is the time to overcome Hillsborough's transportation challenge. It's time for leadership at all levels to answer the call.

Our community is ready for transit solutions now. To deliver what the community expects requires bold leadership — at the County Commission and in our community. We must set aside party affiliations and political differences to focus on solutions. Our economy is growing and excitement is building throughout our region.

Bipartisan community feedback on Go Hillsborough was clear — the community wanted a more robust and comprehensive plan, more mass transit and use of existing or alternative funding options. We were also told to eliminate wasteful government spending at County Center and demonstrate a commitment to use the growing county's new revenues to fund transportation first.

To this end, I have put forward a proposal for a dedicated funding source I call "Transportation New Revenue Growth Funds." These funds would commit one-third of new growth in property and sales tax funds each year to fund transportation.

The new funds would grow incrementally into the base funds available for transportation each year. This could generate approximately $1 billion over the next 10 years that would be a serious down payment for transportation funding. And this approach would still allow us to fund growth and essential government services like sheriff and fire operations. With the increase in property values as reported by the Tampa Bay Times recently, it makes sense to use these new revenues for our roads.

The comprehensive Go Hillsborough process used community input to set a priority list of transportation projects that were approved by the County Commission. Although its proposed funding source of new taxes was rejected, and rightfully so, the proposed new revenue growth provides a dedicated revenue stream for transportation growth. Now we need leadership and teamwork to get the job done.

At the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation has funded a premium transit study/plan and a Tampa streetcar plan that will be completed within the next 24 months. They also have had conversations with CSX as they consider alternative forms of transportation.

As these long-term plans are completed, they should be integrated with the Go Hillsborough project priority list to create a comprehensive, multimodal plan that connects Hillsborough and its cities to the region. When FDOT's comprehensive transportation plan is done in the next 24 months, we will have the opportunity to go back to the community to seek support for options to fund the plan.

On top of all this, the County Commission has already approved a mobility fee that requires developers to pay their share of the cost of new transportation needs. This fee, at current growth rates, will eventually provide $25 million to $40 million per year directly to fund our transportation needs in the county.

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I've approached the transportation challenge in the same way I've approached other challenging issues we've faced. I've listened to all sides, taken to heart what they shared with me, and offered a plan to deliver real results. We cannot hand the transportation challenge to the next generation or provide them with a halfhearted solution.

A community that cannot move is a community that cannot grow. So let's get moving and create even more jobs and opportunities for our current and our future citizens of Hillsborough County.

It's time to move forward and act now.

Sandy Murman serves on the Hillsborough County Commission, representing District 1.