St. Petersburg, FL – Business, transit and elected leadership from Tampa Bay met last week with federal officials in Washington D.C. to advocate for a premium transit project in Pinellas County that, if approved, would be the region’s first successful application for competitive capital investment transit funding.
The group touted the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, a 22-mile roundtrip route operating in 11 miles of dedicated lanes between Downtown St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach, as the first concrete step in the effort to build a regional transit network to ultimately connect the entire Bay Area. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is managing the project.
PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller, Pinellas County Commissioner Chair and PSTA board member Janet Long, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) Chair James Holton, and Tampa Bay Partnership President and CEO Rick Homans spent last Wednesday and Thursday meeting with officials with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration, the Office of Management and Budget and Florida’s U.S. Senators and Congressional delegation.
The group shared with federal officials that, according to a 2016 report by Jacobs Engineering, the Tampa Bay region had produced 55 transit studies in the last 30 years, with only one project— the Central Avenue BRT — proceeding to a formal application to the federal capital grants program for transit.
PSTA is asking for a federal grant to fund 49 percent of the $41.5 million project. Local governments and the State of Florida have committed the other 51 percent.
“As a CEO-driven organization that represents businesses throughout Tampa Bay, it’s critical that we support the Central Avenue BRT project, not just for its economic and job creating benefits, but because it is a symbolic first step toward a robust regional transit system,” said Homans. “It’s important for us to advocate for this project because we know it will pay dividends for the entire region in the future.”
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long attributes the group’s success to regional support and a coordinated effort.
“In the past, when we have made these advocacy trips, a group from Pinellas County would come up on a Monday, then a business group would come up on a Tuesday, and another county from our region would come up on a Wednesday; everyone with a different agenda,” said Commissioner Long. ‘I’m so glad that we are focused on a new way of doing business to advance transportation solutions for our entire region.”
As the newly appointed TBARTA Chairman, Holton said he and his board look forward to working with elected officials and business leaders to develop regional consensus on the path forward to address local, long-standing transportation challenges.
“Last year Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature created a more focused TBARTA as the Regional Transit Authority, and tasked it with putting together a regional transit development plan that will strategically implement a new regional transit system,” said Holton. “As a future priority project of TBARTA since 2015, the Central Avenue BRT will certainly play an important role in the plan, which we will be putting together next year.” Holton added, “I am grateful to have briefed the Federal Transit Administration, USDOT, the Office and Management and Budget, and members of Congress on the new role of TBARTA, as well as hear members of the Tampa Bay Congressional Delegation make a commitment to helping secure funding for regional transit projects that are vital to the future of our region.”
About PSTA: The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is the public transit provider for Pinellas County, providing more than 14.4 million rides per year. PSTA operates nearly 40 bus and trolley routes with a fleet of 210 vehicles. More information is available at www.psta.net.