HART board member expresses concern about new push for light rail in Hillsborough County

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Two weeks ago, at the second leadership group transportation meeting, a coterie of business types in the county spoke almost in unison about their desire for light rail to be seriously considered moving forward. But addressing that subject alarmed some Hillsborough activists who fought against the measure in 2010.


"If you look at several of the members that were chosen as CEO's (for the meeting), they had been participants in the political action committee Moving Hillsborough Forward — and many of their companies had been major donors," said Karen Jaroch on Monday, naming the PAC created to get the rail issue passed.


There were six business leaders at the last transportation meeting, all of whom said a modern, efficient transit system was crucial if the area was going to break through economically to attract highly skilled workers.


Jaroch is a member of the HART board and was a leading player in the 2010 campaign against the light-rail measure. She wasn't able to attend the July meeting but saw a tape of it, and what she saw gave her pause.


"It was concerning that the CEO's that were selected seemed to have a predilection toward rail, and if you go through the entire meeting it seemed to be totally centered on bringing in rail ... this is a transportation meeting, and not a 'let's try to get rail into our community meeting,'" Jaroch told CL.


Jaroch believes the group needs to look at all the options on the table, and said she was dismayed that only rail seemed to be the focus of that meeting. She brought up her opinion at Monday's HART board meeting, where her colleagues assured her that any conversation about a ballot measure to raise money for such a plan was not at all imminent.


Connect Tampa Bay has been circling Tuesday's meeting for weeks, urging their supporters to attend.


The meeting will take place Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 6-8 p.m. on the 26th floor (conference rooms A and B) of the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

  • HART board member Karen Jaroch

A Hillsborough County transportation group will hold its third meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6, and this time the public is invited to speak.

The members — consisting of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace's mayors, as well as representatives from the Hillsborough County Commission and other transportation leaders — came together earlier this summer as 'the leadership group'. They're tasked with resuming serious discussions about the county's lagging transportation issues.

This November will mark three years since Hillsborough County voters overwhelmingly rejected a penny sales tax increase that would've helped fund the construction of a light-rail system. While Pinellas County will present a similar option for their residents to vote on next year, there has been nothing close to resembling that type of action in Hillsborough.

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