Tampa streetcar review offers three popular route extensions

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

For all the years Tampa residents spent calling for increased transit, they’ve struck out relying on the Hillsborough County Commission to satisfy those needs.

Tampa does have one thing — a streetcar trolley — albeit one rarely used as it runs back and forth between Ybor City, Channelside and into downtown.

However, fortified by a $1 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, the city is conducting a $1.6 million feasibility study on additions to the trolley’s 2.7-mile route.

And at the Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City Tuesday, they unveiled seven proposed routes; three of them won the public’s heart.

A crowd of approximately 90 people watched Steve Schukraft of HDR Engineering, the city’s consultant on the study, go over the study. About 74 of them participated via a smartphone app allowing them vote on a variety of questions presented throughout the night, including preferred routes.

Most popular was a route going from Franklin Street north to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights, then turning slightly west and past Water Works Park, before going south on Franklin. It would add 2.6 miles to the current track, and include eight stations.

A close second was the north/south Tampa Street- Florida Avenue route. This line also adds 2.6 miles and eight stations.

Third was the “Loop Downtown Ybor” route, that would add 4 miles to the current route by continuing to run north on Franklin Street, then cutting east on Seventh Avenue into Ybor City.

Schukraft acknowledged some concerns about whether that line would have enough density, while though others in the crowd said that more housing being built there would support such a line.

Tuesday night’s public meeting was the third in what HDR considers the first phase of the planning process. It was designed to identify a limited number of alternatives for extensions and modernization of the existing Tampa Streetcar system, to culminate with a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requesting approval to initiate consideration for federal funding.

If the FTA approves, Phase 2 will commence later this summer, which includes identifying a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for extension and modernization and complete project development activities. Phase 2 is scheduled to end by summer 2018.

While no price tags for the extended lines have yet been announced, Schukraft said that information may be available later this summer.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.