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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014
Editorials

Get behind Hillsborough’s new transportation group

Published:

Expect a menu of new transportation projects by the end of November. An understanding of how the selected projects might be financed should be known by the end of January.

And potential governing structures are expected to be considered about a year from now.

That’s part of an ambitious timeline the Hillsborough Transportation Leadership Group has adopted as it embarks on the county’s best chance for developing a coherent transportation plan.

We urge the public to get behind the group’s efforts by attending meetings and contributing to the conversation about an issue that will define the county for generations to come.

Past efforts to craft mass transit plans have failed in large part because of territorial factions, and the uncertainty about how those plans would benefit the county as a whole. It’s understandable that taxpayers in one region of the county would be suspect of plans that appear to benefit other regions at their expense.

The leadership group hopes to get beyond that obstacle by engaging the public on the front end, and by demonstrating how urban and rural residents can reap the rewards of a multi-modal transit system.

The group’s membership includes the mayors of Hillsborough’s three cities and its county commissioners, and will involve the heads of local transportation agencies. That in itself should help the group get beyond the territorial divisiveness that has hampered the success of previous efforts. The group represents the county’s various taxing authorities, and the elected officials on board represent taxpayers from every corner of the county.

“This is an enormous commitment,” says Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Rather than craft a plan and hope it generates public support, the group first wants to understand what the public needs and wants.

It plans to hold public meetings, and from those meetings begin to identify the areas where transit hubs would work, and the kinds of transit that would best serve those areas. A transportation “spine” will be identified for locating mass transit lines.

Although this ultimately may lead to a call for rapid-transit buses, light-rail lines and a referendum to raise sales taxes, members of the group say they have no preconceived notions about what the public wants or how transportation improvements it might be paid for.

With our history of failed transportation efforts, it’s easy to be skeptical. But we think this group, and its open and orderly approach to finding solutions, is deserving of support.

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