Tampa Bay Partnership has specific concerns on light rail they'd like addressed in referendum

Last week, CL reported on where the business community in the Tampa Bay area stood on the soon to be proposed light rail referendum in Hillsborough County.

One key player in the process is the Tampa Bay Partnership.  Not until this week were we able to sit down and discuss the organization's thoughts on the proposal.

Stuart Rogel is the President & CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership.  The Partnership has been a supporter of light rail coming to the region, announcing in the summer their support of TBARTA's Master Plan.

But as Commissioners get closer to voting on an actual proposal that will be go before the citizenry next year, Rogel told CL that there are some key provisions that his organization want to have addressed before they are willing to go further in support.

Those provisions include:

1) A list of clearly identified projects and realistic timelines for project delivery.

2) A plan to have an independent, nonpartisan oversight board created to ensure that the funds for the project will be 'on time and on budget'.

3) And a sunset provision to offer 'confidence and comfort' to citizens that the one cent sales tax ( which is believed to last for 30 years)- not be imposed without 'opportunities for additional input'.

Rogel also says though all the agencies involved in trying to bring light rail to the area (HART, TBARTA, and the County Commission) have seemingly been working in concert to get the referendum up on the 2010 ballot, and ultimately approved by the electorate, he'd like to see a formal agreement be signed by those parties going forward.

But the Partnership does appear to be prepared to start spreading the word.

Next month, they will be bringing in Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Patrick McCrory to town.  He'll speak at a Transportation Forum about his experience in bringing light rail to his community, and the economic benefits that it's enjoyed since coming online nearly two years ago.

Rogel says his organization is prepared to reach out to work on bringing the entire community - Blacks, Latinos, the disabled, seniors- to the table to understand the benefits of bringing light rail to the region (and like virtually every major player involved, he emphasizes that the referendum would also include funding for road projects as well).

The Partnership is also invested in working with Ed Turanchik and his ConnectUs organization vying to win federal money for a Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line.  When asked what the biggest attraction was for the Tampa Bay Partnership, Rogel said construction jobs.

But he also said that the Tampa/Orlando region is a heavily traveled region, with so many who live in between in Polk County commuting to either side of the I-4 corridor.

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