HART officials seriously looking at putting rail stop at Tampa International Airport

In the past, officials with the airport had not expressed an interest in having a rail station at TIA.  But that's when they were led by  Louis Miller, the long time head of the Aviation Authority who stepped down earlier this year.

His current replacement, interim director John Wheat, supports having a station at the airport.  "They are very interested," Shavalier said.   The HART Board plans a full discussion of the issue at their July 19 meeting.

Throughout the discussion of light rail, there has been considerable debate about placing an airport stop as one of the initial destinations on a light rail system.  San Francisco, for example, did not a connection to the SF airport until virtually thirty years (a connection to the Oakland airport via a shuttle was an original stop).

Charlotte, North Carolina does not have a connection to their airport.  Their former mayor, Pat McCrory, told CL two weeks ago his thoughts on the subject.

Every city’s different.  I mean every city’s development goes in different directions.  In our city, we do not have enough density at this point between our downtown and our airport, and therefore it’s in 5th place regarding the routes that we select.  I hope it will go to the airport at sometime in the next 50 years.  But at this point in time we picked high priority lines even though an airport was my first choice as mayor, but I listened to the experts had to say and the experts told me that in Charlotte  that would not be the best line to implement.  But every city is different.

On November 2, Hillsborough County voters will go to the polls on a one cent sales tax referendum on transit that if approved, would provide local funding for a light rail system (the tax would also go to enhance HART's bus system and also spend 25% of the tax on road projects).

This morning Mary Shavalier, the chief of Planning & Program Development with HART, briefly discussed the transit agency's new focus on now possibly putting a light rail station at Tampa International Airport.

Original plans have always had light rail going "through" the airport, but not to the airport, but that sentiment appears to be changing at lightning speed with the local agency in Hillsborough County that is working on the entire proposal.

One factor that has led to this change of attitude is the fact that Tampa is now getting a high speed rail line, to Orlando.  But while one of the three lines in Orlando will originate at their airport, there are not any plans to have rail connect to Tampa International.  The need for connectivity is what's driving this renewed surge( as an article in Sunday's Tampa Tribune by Ted Jackovicks reported).

(Criticism of the area not having the high speed rail station at Tampa International was also expressed at a workshop held by the Tampa City Council last week).

Current plans have a station to be built at O'Brien and West Spruce Streets, about a mile from the airport.

HART board member Steven Polzin said he had concerns about adding a possible change to current plans, saying he was worried about how it would affect the process.  He said he was also "nervous" about making the project bigger, and asked if HART was now going to allow other constituencies to come in at the relatively late hour with other requests that deviate from the current plan.

But Shavalier said that the demand for a connection with the airport had been enhanced because of Tampa's new high speed rail line, and said that that there's not a whole lot of new work that needs to be done.  That's because the airport conducted a study in 2007 about having a station at the airport.  Shavalier said that those preliminary plans showed the costs of building a station at TIA was  $77 million, and an elevated plan would cost $125 million.

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