High Speed rail to airport link study discussed, then rejected at Tampa City Council

New Council member Yolie Capin, who like Mulhern supports the idea of studying high speed rail to the airport, spoke wistfully about the past, and how Tampa International Airport wasn't built until 1971,  after Orlando's airport, saying that TIA has been Tampa's "stepchild" for far too long.

A subtext among the supporters of at least studying high speed rail to TIA is that is some how losing out to Orlando, because it will have three stops, including one at their airport (but not in their downtown), to Tampa's lone stop.  Already Orlando's airport is far busier than TIA, as is Miami's in terms of direct international flights, which many in the local business community believes puts the city on an unequal stage in terms of being competitive.

Mulhern began the discussion by emphasizing that the Council endorses a light rail link to TIA, which HART, the local transit agency that is working directly on the alternative analysis studies of the first stops to the proposed system, will begin to study.  She repeatedly said throughout the discussion that it was not an "either-or," that why not have light rail and high speed rail go to the airport.

But Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has already gone on record as calling that would be a mistake, and the other local heavies involved in the debate, like Turanchik, Wheat and Ray Chiaramonte, the head of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization.

This morning the Tampa City Council rejected a proposal to have the Florida Department of Transportation apply for federal funds to study extending the Tampa-Orlando high speed rail line to Tampa's International Airport.

The 70 minute long discussion featured several speakers who told the Council that they did not believe it was viable to extend high speed rail to TIA, but instead support having a light rail link go there.

City Council woman Mary Mulhern, who has single handedly been a force in driving the discussion about getting funds to study the possible link, challenged those speakers, such as TIA interim director John Wheat and Ed Turanchik, currently a consultant with an agency working with the FDOT on the rail line, saying there has never been a definitive study to determine whether or not it in fact was viable.

Mulhern began the discussion by calling it "astonishing" that in the 26 year history of high speed rail in Florida, it had never been studied.

Turanchik said in his remarks that the high speed rail technology didn't lend itself to going to TIA, mentioning the size and speed of the trains and the "curvature" that is also demanded.   He also said that the high speed rail in Tampa, in being located close to downtown, would be a boon for development around the area, something that because of height restrictions and the like could not happen at the airport.

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