COMMENTARY

We Can't Afford To Just Build More Roads

By PAM IORIO

Published: Mar 11, 2007

Several weeks ago on these pages, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik described a way to build a regional light-rail system by using existing CSXT railroad lines. To fund the project, he suggested that local governments eliminate the property tax for transit and replace it with a half-cent sales tax.

We asked community leaders their reaction to his proposal. Here are their responses:

We all owe it to future residents of our region to invest in mass transit. A recent commentary in The Tampa Tribune focused on commuter rail and the existing CSXT tracks, with bus rapid transit and light rail filling in where tracks currently do not exist.

I agree with this basic concept because it embraces a regional approach that is sensible and will connect major regional activity centers.

Costs for roads are escalating at an alarming rate. Construction costs to widen our interstate system are in the billions, and even the widening of just one roadway - 40th Street - is now at $100 million. Are any of these improvements congestion-proof? Will any of these improvements truly be able to handle the sustained growth of our region?

Rail transit offers an opportunity to build a system that is congestion-proof. It provides residents and visitors with reliable and economical access to major employment centers and cultural and recreational facilities. At the same time, we must have a vastly improved bus system that encompasses Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco as one customer-service base. The regional bus system must be properly funded, offering better accessibility so that it will be more attractive to riders.

A plan that includes an improved bus system, commuter rail, light rail and bus rapid transit should meet the growing needs of the many counties in our region. And, when the day comes that we put pencil to paper and figure the cost of the plan once it is developed, I suspect it will compare favorably to the ever-escalating costs of widening interstates and roads.

http://www.tbo.com/news/opinion/commentary/MGB9FVCF3ZE.html

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