After listening to the public comment for more than an hour, on March 20th the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to establish a leadership group made up of themselves, the mayors of Plant City, Tampa, Temple Terrace, and HART’s Chairman. The group will hold a series of workshops to discuss Hillsborough County’s transportation future, including funding.
The Board’s interest stems from the realization that transportation and economic development go hand-in-hand. For example, their Economic Prosperity Stakeholders’ Committee recommended focusing transportation improvements to support economic development that attracts high-wage jobs in target industries.
Before the Board’s vote, members of the public spoke passionately about the need for more and better transportation. Some favored rail, others Bus Rapid Transit, and others spoke about the need for safer walking and cycling. In a rare moment of non-partisanship, the presidents of the local Young Democrats and Young Republicans delivered a joint statement pledging to work towards “common ground” on transit, smart growth and funding.
According to a process laid out by County Administrator Mike Merrill, the leadership group will consist of “funders and constructors” and start meeting within six weeks. It will begin by discussing how transportation can help Hillsborough County achieve economic development and job growth, then move on to funding issues. A series of workshops will be conducted with the help of a facilitator, and include extensive stakeholder engagement. The workshops are expected to build on existing plans and studies, and include support from the MPO.