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Pat Kemp says there’s nowhere near enough funding for transit in BOCC transportation plan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp says there’s woefully little transit in the ten-year, $812 million transportation package that the BOCC is poised to vote on at its Wednesday’s board meeting, and she intends to propose a new list of priorities to include in such a package.

“In the last two weeks, we went from a $600 million program to an $812 million program for roads…with just $1 million for transit,” Kemp said on Tuesday while noting that county officials contended a year ago that there wasn’t anyway possible to take $600 million from general revenues to pay for transportation.

Decrying the lack of “shovel-ready projects,” Kemp said she has a five point plan of priorities she intends to introduce to her colleagues on Wednesday.

That includes stepping up on the proposed ferry project scheduled to run from eastern Hillsborough County to MacDill Air Force Base that has been mired in bureaucracy for the past couple of years; increasing the number of van pools currently being administered by TBARTA, which she says would free up more buses for HART to use; Provide more funding for HART’s HyperLink program; Add funds for trails and greenways and include the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) studies to include transit projects.

Kemp was elected to serve countywide in District 6 last November on a pro-transit agenda. She says she’s been reviewing master plans for fire and rescue and for parks, but says there’s no master plan for transportation or land use.

“It’s really an arbitrary collection,” she says of the projects included in the $812 million transportation plan, saying that only two of them – the Citrus Park Extension and a project in Apollo Beach, are currently shovel ready, with the rest all having to conduct PD&E studies.

The BOCC has scheduled a board discussion on April 5th to discuss adding more trails and greenways. Kemp says she will hold a community meeting on April 4 to discuss that portion of transit.

Kemp also wants to jettison the $97 million widening of Lithia Pinecrest Road included in the package.

“If we persist in a ‘roads first’ solution, we will never fund public transportation because ‘roads first” will never succeed,” chimed in Kent Bailey, Kemp’s former colleague with the TampaBay Sierra Club. “Congestion will continue to escalate until we have a vigorous, modern public transportation system in place and no amount of “roads only” funding can prevent it.”

Bailey and other supporters for more public transit are expected to speak during the public hearing portion of Wednesday’s meeting at the County Center.

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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