Pinellas Co. leaders release details on multi-million dollar rapid bus transit system grant

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – News Channel 8 is learning new details about a multi-million dollar transportation construction plan to connect downtown St. Petersburg to Pinellas County beaches.

“Talk about uniting this region for the first time ever,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long at Friday mornings announcement. Some PSTA leaders there called her the “mother of this project” and said it wouldn’t have happened without her.

On Friday morning, county officials said this is the bay area’s first Bus Rapid Transit project, also known as the BRT. The total cost of the project is just over $43 million, the $21.8 million grant would go towards that.

Supporters said it’s a way to reduce the number of cars at beaches, but those opposed say our beaches are already crowded enough.

The goal of the 20-mile roundtrip route is to better connect Downtown St. Pete to surrounding beaches. They say it will feature free wifi, semi-dedicated lanes, and new technology at intersections to help increase traffic flow.

“When there’s a red light it will turn it green, that will benefit all the traffic in the corridor,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller.

Officials said the BRT line will feature semi-dedicated lanes, limited stops, and safety enhancements for riders including level boarding platforms and ADA compliant crosswalks. It is primarily expected to run along 1st Avenue North and South.

The plan is for it to have 31 stations, with buses coming every 15 or 30 minutes and to have them running from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“[This is] long-awaited, and much needed,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman in reaction to President Donald Trump’s tweet announcing the move Thursday night.

Beachgoers we spoke with on St.Pete Beach Friday have mixed feelings. “If it’s going to bring people out and maybe take away from the traffic I think it’s a great idea,” said beachgoer Nicole Bradham.

“I think the beaches are already overcrowded enough, with the bus systems bringing more and more I feel like it would be overkill for everyone at the beach,” said Christian Cyrus.

St.Petersburg Mayor Kriseman said it will help with the quality of life, climate change affordable housing, and economic development. “If we’re going to compete for the businesses we want to bring to the Tampa Area, St.Pete, Pinellas County, we need to have great mass transit,” said Mayor Kriseman.

“It really doesn’t benefit us at all,” said St.Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson. He said it’s going to be logistical traffic nightmare “It’s a small island, a 60 foot bus just doesn’t fit. I’m elected to represent the people and I haven’t had 1 e-mail saying they’re in support of it,” said Johnson.

For years we’ve been reporting the $43 million dollar project may be happening, so why is this $21.8 million dollar Federal Grant coming now? 8 on your side asked St.Pete’s Mayor if it was political. “haha, Yeah…I’m just not going to go there,” said Mayor Kriseman.

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