Monday, May 07, 2007

Crist To Sign Bill Forming 'Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority'

Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign the bill forming the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority.

The authority would have power to plan, develop, finance and build roads, commuter rail service and other transportation facilities in the seven greater Tampa Bay counties: Manatee, Sarasota, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.

It would be governed by a board consisting of a county commissioner from each county; the mayors of Bradenton or Sarasota (on an alternating basis), St. Petersburg and Tampa; a representative from a regional metropolitan planning organization group; and four nonelected officials appointed by the governor.

The final would member would be nonvoting member and would be a representative of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Legislators agreed to set aside $1 million for for the authority.

The first responsibility of the authority would be to create a regional master transportation plan by July 2009.

The authority cannot levy taxes, but it can acquire property through eminent domain and sell revenue bonds to pay for toll roads. It can create and operate a mass transit system, establish a fare structure and enter into partnerships with private companies to create transit hubs and park-and-ride facilities.

Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) was a leader in pushing the authority's creation, primarily as a means to develop a proposed cross-state toll road between Manatee and St. Lucie counties.

On a related note, on May 4th, the House passed a sweeping transportation bill that allows private companies to take over control of some existing roads and build planned roads - and charge tolls to pay for them. The Senate passed the legislation on May 3rd.

The bill, which passed 68-49, also makes driving on toll roads in Florida more expensive by allowing tolls to automatically increase each year at the rate of inflation.


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