One voice on top regional priorities

Regional Transportation PrioritiesWhat happens when representatives from eight counties, six MPOs and two FDOT districts meet to discuss which transportation projects to fund next? Cynics might predict squabbling over parochial concerns would trump regional needs, but they would be wrong.

Defying such predictions, elected officials and agency heads from across West Central Florida came together in May. Meeting as the MPO Chairs Coordinating Committee (CCC), they spoke with one voice about the region’s top priorities. Leaders agreed to fund a handful of regionally significant projects under the Transportation Regional Incentive Program (TRIP), established by the Florida Legislature to encourage projects benefiting regional travel. For Hillsborough County, these include:

  • 25 new vans to expand TBARTA‘s regional vanpool program
  • A regional transit farebox project that will enable riders to travel seamlessly across Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties using one fare card
  • Tampa’s Advanced Traffic Management System
  • A similar ATMS project on N Dale Mabry Hwy from Sligh Ave to Van Dyke Rd
  • Widening and rebuilding interchanges on I-275 from the Howard Frankland Bridge to downtown Tampa
  • Completing the expansion of Bruce B Downs Blvd to 8 lanes from Pebble Creek Dr to Pasco County

The CCC also agreed on priorities for regional multi-use trails. The top priority is completing the remaining part of the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, which would connect to the Suncoast Trail in northwestern Hillsborough County. Rounding out the regional trail priorities in Hillsborough County are the South Tampa Greenway from the Gandy Bridge to Bayshore Blvd and the By-pass Canal Trail from Fletcher Ave/Morris Bridge Rd to 50th St. These projects will compete for federal and state funding set aside for non-motorized facilities.

Focusing on our tri-county metropolitan area, the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area (TMA) Leadership Group, consisting of board members from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas MPOs, met in June. The TMA Leadership Group aspires to speak with one voice to secure funding from the Florida Strategic Intermodal System program, US DOT’s TIGER and New Starts/Small Starts programs, and other grants awarded by Tallahassee or Washington, DC. The group agreed that the top projects in our metro area include:

  • Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project, phase 1, adding dynamically-priced express lanes and inter-county express bus service to:
    • I-275 from south of Bearss Ave to St Petersburg, including the Downtown and SR 60 interchanges
    • I-4 from Downtown Tampa to Polk County
    • I-75, from Fowler Ave to SR 674
  • Westshore Multimodal Center, and transit connections to Downtown Tampa and TIA
  • US 41/CSX Corridor joint use for passenger and freight rail service from Tampa to Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando Counties
  • Regional farebox project (described above)
  • Duke Energy Multi-use Trail in Pinellas County

Last but not least, the TMA Leadership Group concurred with a consolidated list of priorities under the “Transportation Alternatives” program, which funds bicycle and pedestrian projects. In Hillsborough County, the priorities include:

  • Sidewalk connections for safer walking routes to Stowers Elementary, Barrow Middle, Summerfield Elementary, Eisenhower Middle, Cypress Creek Elementary, Shields Middle, Nelson Elementary and River Elementary schools
  • “Complete Street” treatments on Columbus Dr from Nebraska Ave to 14th St and on Floribraska Ave from Florida Ave to Nebraska Ave
  • Walk/bike safety improvements on 46th St from Busch Blvd to Fowler Ave and on Rome Ave from W Kennedy Blvd to Columbus Dr

For more information, contact Gena Torres at TorresG@plancom.org.

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