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Scott's SunRail decision gives some hope for Tampa Bay transit

11:15 PM, Jul 1, 2011   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida - The critics may have been the loudest, but not everyone in Florida was upset about Gov. Rick Scott's decision to allow SunRail to proceed.

Many in the business industry in Tampa Bay see opportunity in construction jobs for SunRail, Orlando's 61-mile commuter rail project.  But community leaders also see SunRail as a signal of opportunity for transit in Tampa Bay.

"Our friends in Central Florida and Orlando are ahead of us as of today," said Stuart Rogel, president of the economic development-minded Tampa Bay Partnership.  "So we've got to get started and build our system."

The private group has sponsored TampaBayOnTrack.com, a website dedicated to educating the region about the benefits of transit. Rogel believes state and government dollars would be available to match local contributions.

"We're either going to move forward or move backward," he said of Tampa Bay's traffic problems, which are expected to get significantly worse over the next decade without transit solutions.

While there are no immediate plans for another transit referendum, most regional transportation agencies have mass transit (bus rapid transit, light rail, commuter rail, etc.) in their long-term plans.

Rogel thinks the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2012 would be an ideal platform to demonstrate both Tampa's need and willingness to move forward with transit.

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