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Central Ave. BRT lands federal funding and Donald Trump was the one to alert authorities

The President tweeted the announcement himself.

The city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County’s public transit agency appear to have won a major victory Thursday.

They learned about it from President Donald Trump himself.

Trump tweeted Thursday evening the U.S. Department of Transportation “is committing $21.8M for the FIRST transit project of this kind in the Tampa Bay region. It will connect St. Petersburg to popular beaches through state-of-the-art transit buses with FREE WiFi. Will be a major help to heavily populated parts of the Great State of Florida!”

 

Trump didn’t specifically name the project, but the only local transit project that meets all of those criteria is the Central Avenue BRT (CABRT) project connecting downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach.

The $21.8 million Trump referenced is the exact amount officials were requesting through the DOT’s Small Starts grant program and represents about half of the project’s $41 million price tag.

“This would be consistent with what officials at FTA have been telling us for months, that federal money will be made available for the Central Ave BRT project and they too see the benefits in establishing this service,” said Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller.

DOT gave the CABRT project a “medium-high” rating, its second highest available, in 2018, which positioned it for federal funding.

The local match is already secured.

The CABRT project would convert much of First Avenues North and South between downtown St. Pete and South Pasadena from three lanes to two and would eliminate some on-street parking east of 34th Street in order to provide a dedicated transit corridor.

The project would run in conjunction with the already operable Central Avenue Beach Trolley. However, the new route would offer a quicker alternative for commuters traversing the entire route or a significant portion there of because it would have fewer stops along the way.

The Central Avenue Beach Trolley, meanwhile, would transition to shorter service shuttling commuters to various points along the route.

“This catalyst project will help transform our transportation network in the St. Pete/Clearwater/Tampa area”, said St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Steinocher. “From meetings at the White House to joining PSTA and local transportation advocates on Capitol Hill, the Chamber Advocacy Team has been fighting for this funding for over 2 years and we could not be more excited for today’s announcement!”

Neither the city of St. Pete nor PSTA received direct confirmation from DOT.

However, they did get to hear through the President’s preferred choice of communication as part of a lengthy tweet-storm announcing transit projects nationwide.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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