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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Building Relationships, Leveraging Revenue Highlight HART Committee Meeting

The HART Board's Finance, Governance and Administration Committee (say that five times fast) met Monday at the HART offices in beautiful Ybor City. Committee members got the latest on HART's partnership with the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, learned how we're leveraging impact fees for local projects, and got an update on the agency's efforts to build new relationships with diverse small-business owners.

Expressway Director Updates Board
HART and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority recently partnered on a federal grant to study the feasibility of installing bus toll lanes (BTL) on our local expressways. Joe Waggoner, THEA's executive director, gave a presentation on this concept at Monday's meeting.

Mr. Waggoner noted that transportation agencies and businesses like HART and THEA are tasked with providing solutions for growing travel demand, while traditional funding sources are flat or decreasing in actual buying power. The bus toll lanes proposal is a new concept that would create price-managed lanes that include transit as an equity partner, combining operational and economic ideas from transit systems and toll highways.

"The bus toll lane is about customer choices," Mr. Waggoner said.

Non-transit customers could choose to use the lanes for a higher cost and a faster trip, while the transit customer would get maximum benefit - lower costs and a faster trip - encouraging more transit use.

Impact Fees Benefit Transit Users
When a major new construction project is proposed in Hillsborough County, part of the review process often includes an assessment of how the new development will impact transportation in the immediate area. That review can result in the addition of impact fees, which help to offset the costs of upgrading transportation service, including transit, surrounding the project.

At Monday's meeting, HART's engineering team outlined the latest projects funded by county impact fees, and offered a preview of projects to come.

Projects accomplished between May 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010 include:
• Three Shelters – 22nd Street between Fletcher Avenue and Bearss Avenue, as part of a Hillsborough County road widening project
• Two Sidewalk and Accessibility Fund for Transit Infrastructure (SAFTI) projects – 15th Street north of Fowler Avenue and Himes Avenue, north of Hillsborough Avenue
• US 301 – Gibsonton Road to Balm Riverview Road - FDOT project; three shelter pads; shelters funded by impact fees

In 2011, HART engineers are planning the following projects:
• US 301 FDOT project – 8 bus bays (road cutouts for buses to pull out of traffic) and shelters
• New Freedom projects - New landing pads for improved accessibility for people with disabilities
• Transit Infrastructure - Accessibility upgrades

The engineering staff reported that impact fees are an important supplement to state and federal funding, leading to the completion of needed transit infrastructure improvements. State and federal monies for transit capital projects from the HART Transit Development Update Plan for 2010-2019 total $2.7 million, with impact fees projected at $.4 million, or 15% of transit capital projects for the same period.

Promoting Diversity
One function of the Finance, Governance and Administration Committee is to oversee HART's business partnerships. An important element of our business is nurturing relationships with DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) firms. HART has a proactive program for reaching out to women- and minority-owned businesses that qualify for DBE status, and updates to the program reported Monday will make it even stronger. The new plan would be expanded to include the Small Business Enterprise Program and the Minority and Women Businesses Program, opening the door for more local firms to do business with HART.

For more on the Minority and Women Business Program, click here.

To learn about resources for all small businesses, visit the Small Business Administration website here.

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