HART ponders airport rail link
June 22, 2010
Hillsborough County transit officials will decide in July whether to include a light-rail link to Tampa International Airport in the first phase of a new transit system.
Officials and board members formally introduced the concept of a light-rail link to the airport Monday morning at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's finance committee meeting.
HART's consideration of the link comes a week after the airport's interim director said he thought that light rail should run to the main terminal during the first phase of the project. Mayor Pam Iorio said she would be open to the idea.
Having light rail go to the airport could add more than $125 million to any transit plan costs, said Mary Shavalier, HART's chief of strategic planning and program development.
Shavalier said it is based on a 2007 Tampa airport study that said it would cost $125 million to build an elevated light-rail extension to the airport and $77 million for a ground-level extension.
A link to the airport would extend the light-rail route from the originally proposed termination point almost a mile from the airport.
Shavalier said HART's outreach efforts for going to the airport have drawn a great deal of interest from the public. "They are saying, 'It's so close, why not just go right in,'" Shavalier said.
But some board members, such as Steve Polzin, expressed concern that adding an airport link this late in the planning might delay HART's transit planning process.
That should not be a huge problem, Shavalier said, because the airport has done a great deal of planning. The biggest change would be adding a ridership study to the existing planning work, she said.
The HART board hopes to vote at its July 19 meeting on whether to include the airport extension into the transit planning process.
The board will vote on whether to approve final recommendations at its August meeting, Shavalier said. HART would then hold a public hearing in September.
HART hopes to present its plan to the Federal Transit Administration in November so the agency can sign off on preliminary engineering plans. The timing coincides with a referendum in Hillsborough County for a 1-cent sales tax hike to raise money for light rail and other road and transit projects.
Adding a link to the airport, Shavalier said, would increase the chances of obtaining the very competitive federal money.
©2010 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Back to Tampa Tribune Page. . .
Back to Home Page. . .