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HART sends $253M spending plan to All For Transportation oversight committee

The proposed spending plan includes $82 million for future fixed guideway projects.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority is moving forward with a $253 million spending plan for new revenue resulting from the voter-approved All For Transportation tax referendum. 

The full HART board will hold two public meetings in September before finalizing the plan.

Included in the proposed spending plan is $82 million for future fixed guideway projects like passenger rail that have not yet been identified as well as extensive new funding for things like new buses, corridor studies, facility improvements and broad service enhancements.

Next, the plan will head to the Independent Oversight Committee, which was assembled as part of the All For Transportation charter amendment. The plan is due by the end of September. 

Despite ongoing appeals to a lawsuit challenging the new tax, the spending plan will move forward. Two lawsuits are pending Florida Supreme Court review.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed one lawsuit, with another from Hillsborough resident Bob Emerson challenging its constitutionality. Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Rex Barbas upheld the tax, with some changes, but both White and Emerson are appealing that ruling. 

In the meantime, Hillsborough residents and visitors will continue to pay the 1 percent sales tax and the funds are being allocated to funded governments and agencies including HART. 

Proposed projects include $32 million for service improvements. Among those improvements are a restoration of previously cut service and increased weekend and weekday bus frequency. The improvements would add 97,000 hours of service to the entire Hillsborough service area. 

The spending plan also calls for $30.2 million for new buses. HART plans to purchase 16 by next summer. The plan also asks for $13 million for electric buses and $5.4 million for bus stops and shelters. 

Another $33 million is slated for HART building renovations.

The plan also calls for $2 million for various corridor studies needed to establish needs for new routes or frequency enhancements and $1.5 million for project design and engineering for the Tampa Streetcar expansion. 

Another $6.6 million is proposed for a farebox replacement project that would improve the way HART collects fares from riders as well as $3.6 million for intelligent transportation systems. Such projects allow things like better traffic light patterns and/or signal prioritization to keep buses running more efficiently.

The Independent Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet for the first time on August 27 at 4 p.m. They will hold additional meetings after agency plans from HART, Hillsborough County and Tampa have been submitted. The deadline to submit plans to the committee is September 30th.

The committee was initially assembled to provide oversight to spending plans to ensure they met the terms of the county charter. However, the lawsuit ruling stripped the committee of some of its authority, leaving the committee’s duties mostly symbolic. 

Also, the committee can still recommend changes to the spending plan and must certify all agency plans comply with the All for Transportation charter amendment before any funds can be spent.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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