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PSTA climbs on board Janet Long’s ‘regional council of governments’ idea

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Members of the governing board of Pinellas’ bus transportation authority voted unanimously Wednesday to develop an agreement to coordinate with the Hillsborough transit authority.

The agreement, which would be forwarded to the State Legislature, is a step to creating a regional council of governments that’s been proposed by Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long.

Long said the proposal is a “framework” for merging several governmental agencies into one regional organization that can provide regional solutions to transit, land and economic development, affordable housing and other region-wide issues. Such a group, Long said, could provide “better, more nimble” solutions to problems.

“This is not my plan. I’m not married to it,” Long told PSTA members. “This is a compilation of dozens of meetings over the last year and a half. … If we can do this, we will save money.”

Long’s proposal comes at a time when e Federal Department of Transportation has proposed rules that would mandate no more than one metropolitan planning organization for each “urbanized area.” That would, at the least, require the Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco metropolitan planning organizations to merge.

Alternatively, the proposed federal rules would require each urbanized area to have a single long-range transportation Plan. Tampa Bay has three such plans.

Long’s proposal casts a wider net.

Long would fold PSTA, HART, and other transportation providers such as the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, ferryboat operations and others under the regional council of government. Certain functions, or entire organizations, could be consolidated within the council of governments concept.

The regional council of governments membership would include mayors, county commissioners, council members, business/private sector leaders and advisory staff members from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Long’s concept is getting support. The Tampa Bay TMA (Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco MPO representation), TBARTA, and the three MPOs have approved a scope of work for a regional governance study that will develop more details of Commissioner Long’s proposal. The MPOs are requesting state legislative support to fund this six- to 12-month study,

HART, the transit authority in Hillsborough, voted in November to develop a written interlocal agreement with the PSTA that would commit the two to continuous collaboration and coordination for the region’s benefit.

It’s that process – the development of such an agreement – that PSTA board members agreed to at their Wednesday meeting.

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