Solving Pinellas’ transportation issues will take a collaborative, regional effort, Pinellas County commissioners told a Seminole crowd Tuesday.
That’s why the failure of the Hillsborough commission to put a half-cent transportation tax on this November’s ballot was so disappointing to at least one Pinellas commissioner.
“I’m a little frustrated with our friends in Hillsborough,” Commissioner John Morroni said. “Not to give the people a chance to vote on it was really bad in my opinion.”
Morroni’s comments were made during a “community conversation” the commission held on the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College. The community conversation has become an annual event that gives commissioners a chance to answer questions live from audience members, bloggers, emails and TV viewers. The event is scheduled as the commission starts into budget discussions for the upcoming fiscal year.
Among the concerns raised by citizens were preservation of green space, incentives to increase the use of solar power, the condition and management of Pinellas’ homeless shelters, and climate change.
But the issue that came up in several forms was transportation, whether it was dangerous traffic on Gulf Boulevard or ways to improve transportation.
Commissioners appeared to agree that one of the hurdles to improved transportation was the heavily fragmented system.
Commissioner Janet Long said there are multiple government agencies across the Tampa Bay area working independently of each other to provide transportation solutions. She estimated that there are more than 100 officials and citizens serving on various committees or in various agencies. Those need to be consolidated, she said.
“Whatever we do has got to be regional,” Long said.
In addition, Long said, transportation plans need to be updated. The plans being worked on now are 20 years old.
Commissioners said some steps have already been taken to consolidate transportation plans across the Bay area.
Commissioner Karen Seel pointed to the formation in 2014 of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area. It was formed by the metropolitan planning organizations of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco. The TMA recognizes the fact that the transportation systems of three-county area are closely linked.