Residents weigh 1-cent tax
March 3, 2010
Last month, in light of the proposed 1-cent sales tax increase that could go before Hillsborough County voters in November, county officials held public meetings in New Tampa, Temple Terrace and the University Area to gather input about potential transportation projects that would profit from the tax.
The proposed tax is a result of a two-year transportation task force study that determined the need for improvements such as the expansion of bus service, enhancements to major roadways and intersections and the introduction of light rail.
The county commission still needs to vote to put it on the November ballot.
At the Feb. 22 meeting at the All People's Life Center, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority officials said the organization is already in the process of extending its hours of service, adding new routes and offering flex pilot routes in the Sun City Center area and Brandon, allowing riders to be picked up at their homes and driven to area bus stops.
Steve Feigenbaum, HART's planning manager, said the authority hopes to expand the flex service to Temple Terrace early next year.
Temple Terrace resident Linda Jones was pleased with those plans.
"That was one of my major concerns," said Jones, who also was happy to know that wait times between bus-stop pickups along most routes has decreased from almost an hour to about a half-hour.
Larry Thurmond of Temple Terrace, a frequent bus rider, also was satisfied with what he heard.
"I definitely like the (tax) proposal and what it can do to improve the system," he said.
On Feb. 18, about 30 residents attended the presentation at the Freedom High/Liberty Middle school cafeteria.
The crowd peppered county Public Works director Bob Gordon and Mary Shavalier, who heads planning and program development at HART, with questions on how best to ensure light rail and other county proposed transportation projects will be on the November ballot.
"The best way to get your opinion known is to contact your commissioner," Gordon said. "They are very responsive to e-mails."
Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, a major north-south thoroughfare being widened in parts of New Tampa, is slated to be a key artery for a proposed light rail service route to link Wesley Chapel, New Tampa and the University of South Florida to downtown Tampa.
HART also is studying traffic volume and patterns between downtown and USF.
"We are trying to find out where people want to travel and when," Shavalier said.
Andrea Braboy Dixon of Tampa Palms was pleased by what she heard from county and HART officials.
"I'm very satisfied," she said. "They were straightforward. They were factual, and they didn't try to deceive us."
At the Feb. 23 meeting at the University Area Community Center, Philip Hale, the chief operating officer of HART, told the crowd of about 20 that if voters approve the proposed increase as many as 1,600 jobs could be created over the next six years.
North Tampa resident Gregor Richkind liked what he heard about jobs.
Hale said the jobs would require about 800 people to construct and maintain a light rail system and about 800 others to work in an expanded bus fleet.
Richkind said the proposal is "a pretty good investment, if you think about it."
Others in attendance weren't as convinced.
North Tampa resident John Evans said he thought money should be spent to build infrastructure for telecommunications so more people can work and learn from home.
"I have serious concerns about light rail," Evans said. "Specifically, we need to move to bring ideas, employment and education to the people."
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