HART authorizes study to connect light rail to Tampa International

This morning the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority authorized spending $25,000 on a study that would look at extending a proposed light rail system to Tampa International Airport.

John Wheat, the interim director at TIA, told the transit agency that he and the rest of the Hillsborough Aviation Authority think that light rail - and not high speed rail, which has also been speculated of late - would be "the best solution" to service riders coming to the airport.  He said there has been no ridership studies done on high speed rail to the airport, whereas the airport did do one regarding light rail back in 2007.

The new study will examine a 1.8 mile extension to the airport terminal from a proposed HART station at Spruce and O'Brien Streets.

HART officials said that there will be an a technically "intense" meeting next month (on August 2) where  they will begin to hone in on where an actual station at the airport could be located. There will be a followup meeting with HART officials on the airport link on August 16, before holding a public hearing on the proposed route in September.

The board also authorized $45,000 to study the northern most proposed rail link to go to Cross Creek Boulevard in New Tampa.

Also at the meeting, officials discussed changing maps that have been put on display when officials make presentations to neighborhood associations and other civic groups.  The criticism is that the maps contain just designs for proposed light rail routes, with no proposed bus routes or road improvements, which are all part of where the monies received from the one cent sales tax referendum would go.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Temple Terrace City Council member Ron Govin both shared their dissatisfaction with the current maps, saying they only fueled critics complaints that the proposal is simply regarding light rail, and not about buses and roads.

And HART board member Fran Davis emphasized that as the transit agency looks at alleviating a $397,000 deficit, that shoring up that deficit would not include taking anything out of current services.  Davin, looking over at HART Executive Director David Armijo, said that there were other items, such as in the travel budget for HART officials, that should be cut before hitting services that would affect the public.

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