A final public hearing takes place Thursday night on a proposed one-cent sales tax referendum before Hillsborough County (Fla.) commissioners decide whether to advance plans for light rail transit in Tampa. The sales tax, if approved by voters in November, would be used to fund LRT construction.
At issue is not just the referendum itself, butwhich of two routes initially to be funded. "For the moment, yes, we're looking at the red line, [University of South Florida] to Bruce B. Downs/Downtown, and then the portion of the blue line would take you into Westshore and just connect to the outside of [Tampa International Airport] by one mile," said David Armijo, a spokesman for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART).
“I think the ridership numbers are what's going to drive it,” said Ray Chiaramonte, a member of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, who noted LRT access to and from the airport could aid ridership numbers.
HART is waiting on the results of a study to determine how to proceed. “Which is the best project that we can advance or do we link the two projects together,” said Armijo. “That's still under consideration.”
Supporters of the LRT proposal include Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and the Tampa Bay Partnership, a non-profit business advocacy group. Opponents include perennial anti-rail forces who, among other things, have routinely targeted the existing 2.3-mile, 12-station TECO streetcar line in downtown Tampa, serving the city’s waterfront, calling rail transit a “misuse” of transportation dollars.