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Quarles to lead transit unit
Gov. Crist says he likes the retired Bucs linebacker's leadership abilities.
By MIKE BRASSFIELD, Times Staff Writer
Published September 22, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist feels comfortable appointing the former Buc to the board that includes the mayors of St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and Bradenton. "He has displayed over the years integrity and leadership qualities, and has a demonstrated commitment to the Tampa Bay area," said Crist spokesman Anthony DeLuise.
[CARRIE PRATT | Times]
He used to tackle running backs. Now he's been chosen to tackle the transportation problems of the traffic-plagued Tampa Bay area.
In a surprising move, Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday evening named former Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles as chairman of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.
The appointment of Quarles adds a well-known and different face to a new seven-county transportation board that is otherwise made up of high-powered elected officials, including the mayors of St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and Bradenton.
Naming a recently retired football star to lead this group will inevitably raise eyebrows. But Quarles, 36, feels he has something to offer.
"I'm not a dumb jock. I went to Vanderbilt University, I didn't have the easiest course load, and I was able to graduate in four years," said Quarles, who won't have to leave his job as a Bucs scout for this part-time position. "We have a lot of different possibilities as far as how we could alleviate the congestion here, so I'm looking forward to being a part of the solution."
The governor also defended his choice.
"Mr. Quarles has consistently demonstrated attributes the governor regards as important," said Crist spokesman Anthony DeLuise. "He has displayed over the years integrity and leadership qualities, and has a demonstrated commitment to the Tampa Bay area."
The 15 board members, including seven county commissioners, will be steering the agency, while county and state transportation planners do the nitty-gritty technical work.
Crist's appointment of Quarles and two other board members was announced hours after the recently created transportation authority -- known by the acronym TBARTA -- held its second monthly meeting Friday morning.
Quarles sat among an audience of nearly 100 people as the board discussed an ambitious plan to build a railway for commuter trains across Tampa Bay along the Howard Frankland Bridge.
There's a long way to go before that would actually happen.
Among other things, officials will have to figure out how much it would cost and whether the public is willing to pay for it.
"You have to start with this main connection," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said of a rail line that would link the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa as well as the Gateway and West Shore business districts.
It's the centerpiece of a plan that proposes a broader network of trains, express buses and ferries to move people around the region. The ultimate goal is to offer Tampa Bay residents a realistic alternative to cars.
This rough plan was previously put together by an ad hoc group of local officials and transportation planners. TBARTA members voted to adopt it Friday as a starting point.
The plan will change and evolve. They're expected to spend up to two years fleshing it out, with the help of the state Department of Transportation. By law, the board is to vote on a master transportation plan for the region by July 2009.
Of course, none of this will go anywhere without money -- lots of money.
Baker, for one, wants to know more about the costs of things like a rail bridge across the bay, which has no price tag at this point.
"You don't say, 'Yes, I want to do this' until you know the cost," the mayor said. "But I think there's a consensus that transit will have to be part of the solution."
To pay for a beefed-up mass transit system, officials would have to pull together hundreds of millions of local, state and federal tax dollars.
This will likely require asking local voters to approve a half-cent or one-cent sales tax, possibly in 2010 or earlier.
About 35 people from around the Tampa Bay region applied to the governor to be on the TBARTA board. Crist appointed two others Friday:Former Tampa City Commissioner Shawn Harrison and Sarasota banker Michael J. Bullerdick.