Commuters in Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties could have a new way to get around, as planning continues on a proposed 41-mile bus route connecting the counties.
The plan being considered calls for designated rapid bus transit lanes to be built along the shoulders of Interstate 75 and Interstate 275.
The route would run from Pasco to Hillsborough County — beginning at State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel, heading south to the University of South Florida and ending in downtown Tampa. The system also would have a leg continuing into Pinellas County, ending in downtown St. Petersburg.
Various bus stations would be built adjacent to the highway and within a 1-mile radius of communities with larger concentrations of commercial development.
Chris Jadick, of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA), outlined aspects of the proposed bus rapid transit system during a North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting on Feb. 4.
The proposed project carries a price tag of $455 million, and is now in the project development and environment phase, Jadick told those gathered at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus.
Alternatives are now being evaluated to determine which would be most beneficial to the public, Jadick said.
The current plan being studied calls for designated lanes to be constructed along Interstates 75 and 275 shoulders, catered for buses only.
Increasing the number of stations could result in lower bus fares for commuters, Jadick said. But, it also affects how quickly riders can get from Point A to Point B.
“This all comes down to speed,” Jadick said. “The more stations you have, where they are, determines how quickly you can get somewhere,” he explained.
The study is scheduled to wrap up by August 2021, he noted.
When 30% of the design plan is set, federal funds will be allocated toward the project, Jadick said, aside from state and local assistance.
The project aims to help address Florida’s low-performance ranking in the area of public transportation, Jadick said.
“There’s no question we have great local transit providers. The problem is regionally. How do we connect Pasco County with the great opportunities in Hillsborough (County), or Hillsborough (County) to Manatee (County)?” he asked.
The regional transit agency oversees five counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas.
The tri-county bus rapid transit system is just part of TBARTA’s 10-year vision plan. Another project in that long-range plan calls for expanded car and vanpool services.
The regional transit agency has been working in conjunction with the Enterprise rental service to provide feasible transportation options for government workers.
Plans are in the works to create a ride-sharing program to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road — which would decrease congestion, shorten commute times and result in cleaner air.
It is not yet clear when either of these new initiatives could begin offering commuters new alternatives.
Published February 12, 2020