City council members push for high-speed rail to TIA
June 21, 2010
State and federal plans for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando place Tampa's high-speed station downtown, but a handful of Tampa city officials and residents on Thursday called for extending the high speed line to Tampa International Airport.
Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern, who convened a council work session with a state high-speed rail official, expressed concern that Tampa was getting one high-speed station compared with three in Orlando and one in Lakeland.
Orlando's airport â?? though not downtown â?? was chosen for a high speed terminal along with Walt Disney World and the Orange County Convention Center.
Tampa International Airport patrons seeking to use high-speed rail will have to depend on bus or proposed light rail connections â?? if the latter proposed network gets county taxpayer support in November.
"Can we get more federal funding through the high-speed rail plan to get a stop at the airport?" Mulhern asked.
City councilman Joe Caetano said he has received numerous calls from constituents regarding the lack of a high-speed rail terminal at Tampa International.
"Is Tampa airport out of it?" Caetano asked.
Kevin Thibault, director of Florida Rail Enterprise, a state agency overseeing Florida's passenger rail projects, said high-speed extensions to the airport and to Pinellas County would be issues to look at later.
That point is grounded in the reality of federal funding agreements that will make the Tampa-Orlando line the nation's first high speed rail route.
"What I think we need to do is focus on the first (high-speed rail) phase," Thibault said.
Ray Chiaramonte, director of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he did not believe high-speed rail to the Tampa airport was a sound plan, with light rail connectivity between the airport and downtown a better option.
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