Oct 19, 2023 - Transit

Tampa gets $1.75M federal grant to fix public transportation

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tampa just got a federal grant to address residents' biggest complaint.

Driving the news: The city received $1.75 million this month to establish a Regional Infrastructure Accelerator office to stimulate major transportation projects and transit development.

  • Tampa is the first U.S. city to become a regional accelerator, according to the city's announcement.

Why it matters: Public transportation is one of Tampa's biggest deficits as a major city, but it could be much more connected in the next decade.

The big picture: The funding is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's new round of grants given to 14 cities. Fort Lauderdale also made the cut.

Details: Tampa listed six projects in its grant application provided to Axios, as well as the possibility of creating a local sales tax to support them. Here they are, in order of likely to be completed soonest:

1. Rapid transit connecting USF and downtown: The project would be similar to the SunRunner connecting downtown St. Petersburg to St. Pete Beach. It would run north to south along Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Bus Route 1.

  • Estimated costs: $50 million to build. This also depends on whether HART is awarded a $45 million USDOT grant for the project.
  • Timeline: two years

2. Brightline connections: The high-speed trains from Miami to Orlando that began last month are adding a stop in Tampa. To get ready, Tampa will make the neighborhoods around its Brightline station more walkable and bikeable.

  • Estimated cost: $25 million
  • Project timeline: three years

3. More streetcar stops: The old-timey streetcars that connect the 2.7 miles between downtown Tampa and Ybor would be expanded to Tampa Heights.

  • Estimated costs: $250 million to build; $12 million to annually maintain.
  • Project timeline: four years

4. Utilizing the CSX South Tampa track: The CSX Port Tampa Spur connects downtown to the tip of Tampa's peninsula. But only one freight train uses the track daily. It's supposed to relocate "in the near future," leaving it open to be transformed for commuters.

  • Estimated cost: $175 million
  • Project timeline: six years

5. A shuttle from TPA to downtown: A dozen vehicles would run between 18 stations on an 8.25-mile route connecting the airport with neighborhoods including Westshore, downtown and East Tampa.

  • Estimate costs: $800 million to build; $17 million annually to maintain.
  • Project timeline: six years

6. A connected bicycle network: Bikes would be separated from vehicles to be safer and more accessible for riders. The city's "high injury network," roads where the majority of Tampa's worst crashes occur, will be prioritized.

  • Estimated cost: $500 million
  • Project timeline: 15 years

Between the lines: There's still a lot of work to be done to make these happen. The grant is less than half the $4 million the city requested, as first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

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