Airport rail link lacks council votes
Tampa City Council members rebuffed councilwoman Mary Mulhern's attempt Thursday to push for federal funds to add a high-speed rail station to Tampa International Airport.
Council members voted 4 to 3 against a resolution calling for state officials to ask for money to plan a station at the airport as part of a grant application next month after learning that the federal grant money is only for construction costs, not planning.
"There's no money, so what good is this going to do," Council Chair Tom Scott said.
Mulhern, who has been leading the charge for adding a high-speed rail airport stop, is backed by a loosely organized group of business community activists who say they fear that Orlando may gain a major economic development advantage with its plans to serve high-speed rail, commuter rail and proposed light rail from the airport.
"We hear arguments about why it won't work, but no studies to back it up," Mulhern said.
William Hayward, an architect with the LPA Group, told council members, "It's vital to the economic growth of this city."
The Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail link is being paid for in part with $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money, but that only covers about half the cost. State transportation officials will apply for additional grant money next month to make up the difference.
Orlando will have three high-speed rail stations, including one at its airport, but none will be located downtown. Plans call for Miami to eventually have high-speed rail at its airport.
By comparison, Tampa's high-speed rail station will be downtown. It will rely on light rail and bus service to the airport and other points in the Tampa Bay area, projects that depend on passage of a 1 cent sales tax increase by voters in November.
Ray Chiaramonte, director of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, told council members an airport high-speed link is just not feasible.
"If you wanted to add an ocean-liner link from here to St. Pete, there's not going to be any money available to study it because it wouldn't work."