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HART officials discuss what projects transportation tax would pay for

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although some transit supporters have expressed some unease about the fact that the proposed half-cent transportation tax that Hillsborough County voters could decide next year is loaded with road projects, the plan would provide the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency (HART) $30 million a year over 30 years.

HART will soon be holding a host of public meetings to inform the public what’s in their Transit Development Plan (TDP), which will be similar to the wish list for bus service which could come to fruition if voters support the tax in November of 2016.

“There is the perception that currently, the system is limited, inadequate and unfunded,” said  Marco Sandusky, senior manager of equal employment opportunities and community programs for HART. He was referring to the input the agency has received from the 36 meetings Go Hillsborough meetings held this spring throughout that was designed to have the community have a say on where the monies from any transportation tax would go towards.

So included in the “vision” TDP would be more park-n-rides, an expansion of the HARTFlex program, new local and MetroRapid routes, frequency improvements for both late night and weekend service, infrastructure expansion and working on a first-mile/last-mile connector service.

Sandusky said that these improvements would make HART transit more relevant for many commuters. That means including more serve to Westshore and the USF area as opposed to increasing routes into downtown Tampa.

Among the new local bus routes would be one going from Brandon to USF as well as five others. New MetroRapid routes would include a bus going from Temple Terrace to Tampa International Airport.

HART’s TDP is updated annually and in ten-year chunks. It’s a strategic document for the agency in terms of listing priorities and allocating funding for transit projects where there’s the biggest need. There’s the “status quo” TDP, which is essentially budgeting out for the next few years with just a modest expectation of increased revenues. And then there is their Transit Development “Vision Plan,” more of a wish list of projects. It’s that Vision plan that HART officials have placed into the Go Hillsborough program (though HART CEO Katharine Eagan says their true vision TDP has more projects than the proposed tax could bring in – something to the tune of $60-$90 million a year).

HART officials say they will host 10 meetings spread out across the country to present their TDP. That’s in addition to the reported 100 or so meetings that the Go Hillsborough organizers say they will be doing in August and September of this year.

Officials say that the TDP is not a final product, and if the public wants their opinion to count, they will be hosting ten public meetings to engage the community about their thoughts. The first meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, July 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, 330 Pauls Drive, Brandon.

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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.

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