Senate advances plan for new Tampa Bay-area transit agency - Florida Politics

Senate advances plan for new Tampa Bay-area transit agency

Legislation to reconfigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was approved Monday by the Florida Senate Commerce Committee.

However, the bill passed with changes taking some power from the agency and giving it to the state.

Sponsored by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, SB 1672 would change TBARTA to a transit agency (no longer transportation) and would encompass just four counties — Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. It’s been a top priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership this Session.

However, two other Bay-area Republicans — St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes and Brandon’s Tom Lee, neither of whom as considered enthusiasts of light rail — added an amendment that would create additional obstacles if the newly configured TBARTA ever opted to pursue a light rail project.

The amendment calls for a majority vote by the MPOs of each county impacted by any proposed rail projects before the authority can pursue any real related contract. It would also require the authority to conduct a feasibility from an independent third party before pursuing any rail-related project, and require the authority to receive approval of the entire Florida Legislature before pursuing any rail project.

The amendment does restore more local control in one aspect; it removes the appointment of authority members by the Speaker and Senate President. Instead, those appointees will be named by representatives from the four counties.

Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson is sponsoring the companion bill in the House.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.
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