Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Next vote set for next Tampa Bay LRT plan

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Voters in Pinellas County, Fla., likely will vote in November 2014 on a proposed sales tax to pay for a Tampa Bay regional light rail transit (LRT) system, and bus improvements.

A vote by Pinellas County commissioners is set for Feb. 26 on placing such a voter referendum on the ballot; a majority of commissioners are in favor of seeking voter input. "We've studied this for 30 years; it's time to let the people decide," Commission Chairman Ken Welch said to local media.

If approved, a sales tax increase, probably of one cent, would be targeted to commence construction of a 24-mile LRT line linking Clearwater, Fla., and St. Petersburg. The line is estimated to cost at least $1.5 billion.

Last August Clearwater's city council passed a resolution noting LRT "is crucial to the sustainable growth and development of the Tampa Bay Region" and is consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan.

Opposition now, as then, continues to be voiced by self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, including the Florida Tea Party. As well, the proposed 24-mile LRT line would not serve nearby Tampa, where residents have rejected passenger rail proposals in the past.