There’s been a lot of talk about what should be included in Hillsborough County’s transportation plan should a referendum be placed onto the 2016 ballot. Although there are many things that I would love to see on the plan, I realize that many components just won’t be able to happen given the current state of the economy and the huge anti-tax sentiment that still looms over many voters. This however should not stop our leaders from coming up with a comprehensive plan that can win the hearts and minds of supporters, the opposition, and the undecideds.
In the next few minutes, I’m going to briefly outline what I would like to see in the county’s plan. Please keep in mind that this first list is a bare-bones minimum, meaning that this is what I see that the plan MUST include regardless of things like a new light rail line to the airport.
Now let’s go into the three components in a bit more detail…
In respect to roadways; money will be able to go towards fixing existing roads that are in desperate need of attention, as well as building new roads where they are needed within the county. This component is especially crucial to those residing in suburban areas of the county, as they may not be sold on just a transit plan. However, not all of the money can go to just roads, the other two components must get a fair share as well. Remember, the Tea Party insiders are chanting “FIX OUR ROADS FIRST” but what they REALLY want is more TOLLED ROADS. We can’t let these insiders get their way with having more TOLLED ROADS built.
In respect to transit; the HART bus system can barely keep afloat with what it has. The additional money will allow HART to focus on getting more buses and create more new routes, including those to suburban areas, much sooner than later. It will also allow HART to revise existing routes and gradually even move off of the hub-spoke system and onto a grid system. With all of this in place, HART would be able to serve more of Hillsborough County and double its network within 5 years or sooner, instead of 10 to 15 years.
Additionally, funds can be allocated to improving the TECOline Streetcar, which has been struggling in recent years. Improvements can begin with limited-scope tasks such as increasing frequency while HART and the Streetcar Society tackles the bigger issues, like resolving the CSX liability debacle and finding out ways to entice residents to use the line. Later on, funds can be put aside for the eventual modernization and expansion project, which means completing the loop around downtown – with a connection to the Marion Transit Center – expanding existing stations, and purchasing modern LRVs. Save the heritage stock for special events and charters.
Finally, in respect to pedestrian/bike facilities, funds can be allocated to completing unfinished bike/multi-use trails within the county (there are a few of them), as well as building new ones. Money can also go towards creating more bike lanes throughout the county, which is another crucial component to the mix. Otherwise, our area remains at risk for pedestrian and bicycle related incidents.
There’s going to be a lot at stake for 2015, and in the coming months, our officials are going to want to hear from YOU as far as what you want to see in the county’s transportation plan. It is very imperative that we all provide a voice so that we can have a viable plan that everyone will agree on, even the Tea Party insiders.