2 cents on 1 cent tax: Vote for better transportation
June 27, 2010
On Nov. 2, voters will decide on a referendum for a 1-cent sales surtax for transportation funding in Hillsborough County.
The plan will devote 25 percent of the revenue to road improvements and 75 percent to transit improvements, including neighborhood, local and express bus service and light rail.
These transportation improvements will be good for the local economy; they will provide much-needed expansion of our road and transit system; and they will offer transportation alternatives to reduce reliance on cars.
This is an opportunity to transform our community into a world-class city and economically benefit residents.
The Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project - which is not being funded by the proposed sales surtax - is expected to be in operation in 2015. To capitalize on this investment, improvements in transit service will be required to carry high-speed rail passengers to major destinations across the county, including Tampa International Airport, the West Shore Business District, the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens, and to provide for circulation within downtown. Local residents also will benefit through use of this new service.
By connecting Tampa to Orlando, we can reap the benefits of Orlando's huge tourist economy and create new jobs here. There also will be a significant boost in construction and related jobs as these improvements are built.
Many business leaders and organizations support the surtax, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the West Shore Alliance and Florida Commercial Realtors. Businesses know that a quality transportation system, including transit, is good for business and good for jobs.
The transportation plan provides for significant improvements to the county's road network. As a member of the Hillsborough County Transportation Task Force, which recommended the county initiate the referendum, I am aware that our tremendous roadway needs cannot be met by existing funding sources. The transportation plan provides perhaps our only opportunity to address those needs.
As a member of the board of directors for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, I know our bus system is inadequate to serve the needs of the community because many areas have limitedservice. HART has received its share of criticism through the years (some of which was justified), but the system is being run efficiently and effectively despite limited financial resources.
HART was recently ranked by the American Public Transportation Association as the best midsize bus company in the United States for rider growth, customer service, safety and financial management. However, HART can't do much more without additional money.
Critics say we shouldn't support transit improvements because buses and trains don't pay for themselves. But the majority of roads don't pay for themselves, either. (Some toll roads pay for themselves over time, but they serve a fraction of our overall transportation needs).
The referendum is not just about relieving traffic congestion. Transit improvements will provide a viable, alternative means of transportation and allow some people to reduce the use of their automobiles. This will save money, reduce our dependence on oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Support for the transportation plan is an investment in Hillsborough County's future. As the economy improves, growth in Florida and our community will resume, and we will fall farther behind if we don't address our transportation needs today.
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