Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tampa Bay tries to marry plans for rail, baseball

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Many Major League Baseball teams have moved into new ballparks in recent years, with most of them gaining (or strengthening) rail transit links in the process. But in Florida’s Tampa Bay metropolitan area, the goal is even more ambitious: to both create a new stadium and launch a brand new rail service, route yet to be determined. 

Off-again, on-again efforts to establish rail transit in the Tampa Bay area have been bolstered as the MLB Tampa Bay Rays seek a new ballpark in the region. The site is not yet certain, and may depend on whether rail would serve it—or, conversely, the site chosen could affect any planned rail service route.

“We want to keep the Rays in Pinellas County,” said R.B. Johnson, chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. “How does that play into the rail line? The time is not too far off where we’ll be talking to the Rays about how a new stadium converges with plans for rail.”

That could also include high speed rail service offered by the proposed Tampa-to-Orlando route now being advanced by state officials and bolstered by federal funding. An HSR station in downtown Tampa could be a factor in the relocation of the Rays, team ownership has suggested.