tampabay.com

Study maps future transit

By MIKE BRASSFIELD
Published March 24, 2007


In the decades to come, as it becomes harder to further widen Tampa Bay's major roads, state officials expect to spend significantly more money on mass transit.

In a study released Friday, the state Department of Transportation has mapped out five corridors running through seven counties in west central Florida where state planners think major transit routes should eventually go.

The details remain vague and far in the future.

The department is talking in terms of a 50-year vision. State and local officials haven't decided what kind of mass transit to use - light rail, longer-distance commuter rail, better bus systems, rapid transit buses, ferries, or some combination of those.

Also, the five "transit corridors" are very wide and general, not specific routes. Department planners identified the following corridors after 18 months of research:

- An east-to-west corridor from St. Petersburg through Gateway, Tampa's West Shore and downtown, and over to Lakeland

- St. Petersburg south to Bradenton and Sarasota

- Tampa north to USF, east Pasco and Brooksville

- Tampa's West Shore up to northwest Hillsborough, central Pasco and Brooksville

- St. Petersburg to north Pinellas and New Port Richey

The significance of the study is that the state - which spends more than $8-billion a year on transportation - is embracing mass transit as a key part of the bay area's future, observers say.

Still, state officials say roads remain their immediate priority. "I think you're going to see more funding for mass transit in this area than has been spent historically," said regional secretary Don Skelton. But he added: "Road projects are not going to be going away. I wouldn't characterize it as shifting funds away from highways to transit."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at 813 226-3435 or brassfield@sptimes.com.

On the Web

For more information, see the project's Web site, http://fdot-srtna.c-b.com