This article raises some real issues our region is facing currently and in the coming years. Was re-appropriating the finding for TBARTA the best move? Where does this leave our community? Please share your thoughts below.
Transportation Takes A Backseat
Tampa Bay Newspapers
June 7, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of the re-appropriation of the state funding for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority shows a lack of understanding and concern for the traffic congestion affecting the seven counties the agency serves.
Scott’s action will result in the agency losing about $950,000 that is unspent from its original $2 million appropriation.
For three years the authority has worked hard on plans to improve the transportation network in the area, such as through enhanced bus service and commuter rail networks. Never has so much enthusiasm and support been shown to make sweeping improvements.
Business, community and government leaders in the area have come together to provide vision for the area to deal with problems of traffic gridlock, recognizing its staggering effects upon public safety, economic growth and quality of life.
Scott’s infatuation with his veto powers could send the authority in a tailspin unless other governments subsidize the agency. That seems unlikely, considering financial setbacks they face stemming from the economic downturn and decreasing revenue.
Here’s some information that is lost on Scott:
• The Florida Department of Transportation estimates that by 2030 the population of the West Central Florida region will increase by almost 100 percent and will cause a 300 percent increase in travel delay.
• A Texas Transportation Institute study said that from 1990 to 2005 the population of the Tampa-St. Petersburg region has grown by 31 percent. In that same period, the total annual delay in travel time has increased by 119 percent.
• In 2009 the Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners adopted a TBARTA network into their 2035 needs plans. Priority projects have been identified. Without continuous oversight provided by the transportation authority, what agency will provide the leadership to ensure that they are carried out?
The veto of the appropriation for TBARTA come months after Scott’s baffling decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal government money for high speed rail between Orlando and Tampa, a project that had widespread support and held promise to help provide traffic relief to one of the largest area’s in the world without efficient rail service.
Has the governor or his advisers spent any appreciable time on clogged traffic corridors, such as Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando?
In the state’s annual budget, Scott also moved $150 million from the state Transportation Trust Fund into the general fund, which will paralyze construction projects.
A consistent pattern? Perhaps. All indications are that Scott believes strategies for solving transportation problems in Florida are frivolous. If so, be prepared for more meaningful solutions to traffic congestion coming to a screeching halt.