Pasco County commuters may soon have easier access into neighboring counties, as two new bus routes are being explored along the Interstate 75 and Interstate 275 corridors.
Bus stops along State Road 56 and State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel would allow riders to catch buses traveling to Tampa and Saint Petersburg.
The bus rapid transit project would help travelers move around, while reducing congestion on the highway.
The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) has been working on the idea in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) of Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The regional transit authority began a study in 2019 to evaluate the 41-mile bus route.
If implemented, those in Pasco could travel south into Tampa, stopping near the University of South Florida and in downtown Tampa. Bus riders would have the option to continue riding southwest, ending up in downtown St. Petersburg.
The highway also may be widened to accommodate a designated lane for buses as well.
The initiative has transitioned into the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study, with the support of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Trying to find a way to improve transit and ease congestion has been an issue for decades.
Providing more public bus services across Tampa Bay could help reduce the estimated 50% increase in motorists expected over the next two decades, according to TBARTA.
Other cities across the nation — including Los Angeles, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Las Vegas — already have bus rapid transit.
Routes can be selected based on where there is a high volume of businesses, attractions and daily needs.
Kurt Scheible is the director of Pasco County Public Transportation and sits on TBARTA’s Transit Management Committee.
He pushed for two bus stops when one was originally being considered for Pasco. This resulted in both State Road 56 and State Road 54 being selected, near their intersections with Interstate 75.
“(State Road) 56 is not really a good starting point for Pasco County, (State Road) 54 is,” Scheible said. “(State Road) 54 is where the customers are actually going to be. That’s where the people are and that’s where they’re going to go.”
Currently, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Authority offers bus rides from Wesley Chapel into Tampa.
While the exact locations of the proposed stops haven’t been pinpointed yet, they will be two new alternatives to the HART bus service.
With the support of FDOT, the project could cost up to $455 million.
Studies are scheduled for completion in 2021, but a construction timetable hasn’t been determined yet.
Published January 29, 2020