Thursday, August 12, 2010

Narrowing the Alternatives

HART's look at a proposed new transit plan for Hillsborough County is nearing the final stages. But while our team has been at work on the Alternatives Analysis for just over a year, this is really a story several years in the making.

In 2002, HART completed a study on transit improvements in Hillsborough County, including a new light rail system. Before that, a 1993 Commuter Rail Feasibility Study considered creating a regional system serving the Tampa Bay area's largest counties. Back then, the necessary local funding couldn't be identified and the plans had to be put on the shelf for another time.

Fast-forward to 2010. HART's team of staff and consultants will present its findings in the current AA study to the agency's Board of Directors at a special meeting to be held Monday, August 16 at 8:30 a.m. in the HART administrative offices in Ybor City. The next step in the process will be public input leading to the selection of a final "Locally Preferred Alternative."

So What's an AA, Again?
Here's a refresher. Before applying for any federal assistance in building a new transit system, the Federal Transit Adminstration requires local authorities to make an in-depth assessment of the proposed area. The study must consider which alternatives would best meet the transit needs of that area, whether it's rail, bus rapid transit, regular bus service, or no improvement at all. Hence the name "Alternatives Analysis."

Routes Still on the Drawing Board
The planners and engineers at work on the study have been looking at routing alternatives in the Northeast (Downtown Tampa to University of South Florida) and West Corridors (Downtown Tampa to Westshore). Alignments still under consideration to date are:

Northeast Corridor
• 30th Street and CSX, with option to connect to High Speed Rail Station and south into the
downtown peninsula
• Interstate 275 (east side of interstate)
• 30th Street, Busch Boulevard, 22nd Street, and CSX (with High Speed Rail and downtown connection)

West Corridor
• Cypress Street and Cass Street
• Interstate 275

At Monday's Board meeting, the study team will present detailed information on the findings of the evaluation of these alternatives, including ridership projections, travel time, impact, constructability, cost and land use considerations.

Public Comment Vital
From there, the next step is all about you. If the Board approves on Monday, HART will be scheduling a public communication and outreach program for September that will let residents of the community have their say in the study's final recommendation.

The outreach effort will entail stakeholder group meetings, including neighborhood and community associations and business groups; distribution of a project newsletter and posting updated information on the project website,; six public information sessions at locations throughout the study area; and two public hearings to provide formal opportunities for members of the public to present comments on the alternatives.

Feedback received through these various channels will be presented to the Board and used to help develop the final recommendations.

Keep checking here, and at HART's website, for dates, times, locations and other information about the upcoming public outreach effort. For more information on the background and progress of the AA, you can visit the project website,

For details on this meeting, and all upcoming HART Board meetings, click here.

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