Transportation plan moves forward in HIllsborough County - WFLA News Channel 8

Transportation plan moves forward in HIllsborough County

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Hillsborough County's transportation plan moved forward Wednesday when commissioners voted unanimously to have the county administrator schedule a transportation summit.

The meeting would involve Hillsborough County Commission members, and the mayors from Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City.  The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority will also participate in the summit.

The move is not without controversy.  At Wednesday's County Commission meeting people lined up to shoot down the plan.

Speaking during the public comment section, Ken Roberts criticized efforts to introduce light rail. Roberts says he represents a group called "Organized for Sound Transportation."

Roberts says light rail will not work in the Bay Area, "Our population is dispersed, so no matter where you put it, more people will be asked to fund it, than will use it."

Mark Calvert is another opponent of discussions to introduce light rail.  Calvert says, "All the indications for light rail is, it really doesn't pay for itself without further tax subsidies to attract development."

Opponents of light rail across the country say systems transport less than one percent of the traveling public and do little to alleviate congestions on local roads.

Calvert says, "Light rail is a highest subsidized form of transportation per passenger miles. Yes, roads are not cheap but the vast majority of the population uses those roads."

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says it would be impossible to build enough roads to fix transportation issues in Hillsborough County.

Sharpe says, "If we were to try to raise the billions of dollars necessary to build those roads and get them to a passing grade, we couldn't come up with that much money, it would be very disruptive of all of our citizens and it wouldn't work."

Speaking before the commission, Sharpe cited several studies that put Tampa area roads among the worst in the nation.

Sharpe says, light rail may only be a part of the solution. "What we have to do is focus on roads, intersections, busses. We're talking about express lanes for busses and in some areas, possibly, dependent upon the studies themselves, fixed transit, which would include light rail."

At the County Commission meeting, several speakers told commissioners, they favor an open discussion on county transportation issues.

Representatives of the Young Republicans and Young Democrats issued a joint letter saying they favor the discussion.

Anibal David Cabrera with the Young Republicans says, "What I say is, be open to different options and if we as republicans are not part of the conversation, then we have no right complain when it is passed."

Other republicans have not been so kind to Mark Sharpe's participation in the discussion.

Sharpe says, " What we've done is light a fire and if you light the fire, you're going to take some heat."

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