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Tampa, Fla., seeks to combine rail corridor plan

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Rather than choosing between North Tampa to Downtown and Downtown to West Shore corridors to launch Tampa's first light rail route, local planners may combine them in a funding proposal to federal officials later this year, the Tribune reports. And plans for the initial northern terminus for a light rail line could be extended to the northeast beyond Skipper Road to the vicinity of Cross Creek, just beyond Interstate 75, to make the project more attractive to potential federal investments.

However, the West Tampa
Chamber of Commerce’s wish to consider light rail along Dale Mabry Highway to
serve Hillsborough Community College, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Raymond James
Stadium from the vicinity of Tampa International Airport will not take place
until a second study is undertaken.

The Hillsborough Transit
Authority board of directors in a Feb. 15 workshop continued to refine their
choices for a route that would be the centerpiece of a countywide, and eventually
regional, mass transit improvement plan. The HART board is holding public
outreach meetings on the mobility.

The board at its March 1
meeting will begin to discuss public recommendations and in June intends to
decide on an initial route and technology. It is widely anticipated that light rail
will serve as the core of a network that also will have bus rapid transit
service, although multiple technologies must be evaluated to qualify for
federal funding.

In November, Hillsborough
voters are expected to decide on a one-cent sales tax surcharge that would
provide a local commitment required to gain federal funds for a multibillion
dollar transit network that could be ready for operation by 2020 a document
presented Monday showed, although previous reports have said the first light
rail line could be built by 2018.

The cost of enhanced
transit cannot be determined until both the route and technology are decided
upon. Nor is it certain how much money the federal government would be willing
to provide until the application is evaluated in competition with bids by other
cities for funds.

The sales tax surcharge
would provide an estimated $7.47 billion over 30 years, previous estimates have
stated. An estimate by a consultant for the Tampa Bay Area Regional
Transportation Authority in August estimated a 52-mile rail route between
Wesley Chapel through Tampa to St. Petersburg would cost between $2.8 billion
and $5.7 billion to build.

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