BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME ?? NOT
Once again, the mighty Hillsborough County Commission is attempting to resurrect their light rail boondoggle, voted down by the residents, but never goes away. This imaginary rail line will run from USF on Fowler to the proposed and planned USF research/teaching campus downtown. Its a grand idea, but will break the taxpayers and the community. Light rail can cost as much as $500,000,000 PER MILE ! Yes, a HALF-BILLION DOLLARS per mile. But the community leaders and USF high command want this rail line in place so the university can complete its downtown campus and not force the users to commute from the USF Fowler location on those nasty HARTLine buses.
The USF downtown campus would go a long way toward eliminating the bombed-out look Tampa has in the Channelside District......but at what cost? The rail route would run through the East Tampa residential area, ripping it to pieces, just as I-4 construction did to the historic Central Avenue community in the 1960's. But HARTLine can't even get people into their regular city buses. What if USF just bought some new, fancy express tour buses and used them for Fowler-downtown transport? That might be even more attractive than this light rail monstrosity. AAAhhh, but we forget the interminable traffic jams on the interstates.
The Tampa downtown is still struggling with Encore, a planned community development funded by the Tampa Housing Authority, which is only partially-constructed after several years of work on the site. It does not appear that there are any tenants at present. And the Tampa Ice Palace is just across the street from a large, multi-acre rubble-strewn group of properties which should have been condemned by the City years ago....must belong to an insider or owner with hidden connections. Its Tampa's ugly wart. Too many hidden buddies........
And lest we forget, there is the barely-used TECO Streetcar, which is a nice touch for the tourists, inexpensive to ride, hideously expensive to operate, and inconveniently located for downtown hotel guests traveling to and from to Ybor City. Ybor is a compact, residential/commercial community all by itself, but the greater Tampa area is so dispersed that it is extremely doubtful whether it can be linked via some light rail project. The greater Tampa area suffers from no planning, and this "defect" probably cannot be corrected.
So the County Commissioners just keep on beating this old, dead, rail horse and terrorizing the taxpayers with some kind of sales/gas/transport tax increase to fund it. Hillsborough County already has one of the highest sales tax rates in North America.......and they have hidden much of the tax revenue to keep the animals from revolting. The County is just so broke it can't even patch the potholes. Maybe if enough people complain, the County will get busy and straighten out its act. It's about time.