HART may need to go to eminent domain to purchase properties for BRT line

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Mary Shavalier, director of Grants Management and Planning, told members of HART's Major Projects and Legislative Committee that the agency is working with American Acquisitions Group to negotiate with the property owners along the designated route.

With hopes for light rail nowhere in the forecast for Hillsborough County, transit planners have shifted their focus toward BRT, which would be a bus line running from downtown to North Tampa. The corridor was chosen by HART in 2010 because it includes its highest ridership activity.

One feature of the new bus line is transit signal priority, which provides preferential treatment of the bus when traveling through traffic-signal controlled intersections.

Shavalier said that all of the property owners who stand in the way of HART's proposed route have been informed about the transit agency's plans.

Officials said they would prefer not to go through eminent domain, hoping they could come to negotiated settlements with all those residents. Shavalier said that it was important that the committee approve the resolution today, however, so that plans can continue to run apace.

The full HART board will consider the matter at its March 5 meeting.

A subcommittee of Hillsborough County's transit agency voted today to authorize the purchase of 30 parcels of land for its Metro Rapid North/South line, with 26 needed to be acquired if they can’t be purchased through the negotiation process.

This route includes elements of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, a 17.5-mile line between downtown Tampa and the Hidden River area near I-75, going through Nebraska and Fletcher avenues.

HART has procured $31 million for the project, which would include 59 separate stops. But if the agency is unsuccessful in negotiating with the owners of the 26 properties, officials said today they are prepared to go the eminent domain route.

Eminent domain is a power possessed by a government to appropriate property for a public use.

Officials say their plan is a proactive approach to have all of the properties purchased to begin construction by June.

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