The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is getting a major boost for one of its most targeted projects. On Monday, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Steinman will announce a $500,000 grant to help fund the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project in St. Petersburg.
The grant will help pay for final design of the route connecting downtown and the beaches. The route is intended to complement the existing Central Avenue Beach Trolley. The existing route is great for short trips along the route, but traversing it from one end to the other takes too long.
The new route would run along First Avenues North and South where lights are timed and limit the commute for those traveling between downtown and the beaches.
According to PSTA, Central Avenue is the busiest transit corridor in the entire Tampa Bay region and has been the study of several transit studies.
PSTA is still hoping for additional funding from the Legislature. A $1 million funding proposal last year was not included in the budget. Legislators argued it was not needed because St. Pete already had the Central Avenue Beach Trolley. The FDOT grant will allow PSTA to begin project development regardless of legislature funding.
However, funding for Central Avenue BRT is still PSTA’s No. 1 priority and officials plan to lobby hard for it. The project also enjoys strong support from St. Pete leaders who view the project as a good way to increase attendance at Rays baseball games.
The team is struggling with consistently low attendance ratings and has been itching for years to get out of its contract to play at Tropicana Field. It’s widely believed that improved transit would create a strong case for keeping baseball in downtown St. Pete.
The news conference announcing the funding is to be at 2130 Central Ave. on the Southeast corner of Central Avenue and 22 Street at 1 p.m. Monday.
Other speakers include Visit St. Pete Clearwater executive director David Downing, members of St. Pete City Council and officials from PSTA.