Where in Tampa would you decide to put the first leg of a new light rail line?
Most people would agree that connecting Tampa International Airport (TIA) to downtown Tampa is a good place to start. But right now, a bunch of pencil pushers at Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) are studying an array of possible routes and scratching their heads in confusion.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, HART’s original plan was to study a possible route between downtown Tampa and Spruce Street in the West Shore area – excluding TIA.
That’s right – HART is thinking about spending millions of dollars to connect downtown Tampa to … a couple of malls? Someone must have forgotten to tell them the international airport, which carried nearly 17 million passengers last year, is only about 2 miles from West Shore.
Caught up in bureaucracy, the HART board has decided to consider adding TIA to the ongoing light rail study. That means it’s under consideration to be considered.
A light rail link connecting to TIA may seem to many like an obvious first step, as it would offer a new mode of transportation to millions of passengers. It boggles the mind to think that the airport wasn’t on the table from the beginning.
HART is contemplating a hoard of other possible locations, though, including stops at Cross Creek Boulevard in northern Hillsborough or somewhere along Interstate 75. But why put rail stations in suburbia or next to a busy interstate?
Common sense dictates that a light rail line should be put where the most people live and commute, so what exactly is there to study?
It should be hoped that when HART releases its results, they will announce a rail line that connects TIA to downtown Tampa, and includes an extension to USF – perhaps the three most important travel destinations in the county.
Connecting the airport and downtown would give travelers easy access to hotels and bring traveling businessmen directly to their likely destinations.
Furthermore, connecting USF to these two destinations would give tens of thousands of students easy and quick access to convention centers and sporting events, as well as jobs and internships.
Perhaps the most important feature of this rail line layout would be that it mirrors the county’s busiest and most important transportation corridor, Interstate 275. Construction of a rail route along this area would have the potential to significantly reduce the severe congestion during rush hour.
In a worst-case scenario, HART would choose a route that does no good for anyone. Given the current state of transportation in the county, it would not be a surprise. One can only hope HART’s bureaucrats will soon be overcome by a wave of common sense.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.