Pinellas Tables Light Rail Discussion

In November 2010, voters in Hillsborough County elected not to support a referendum allowing a one-cent sales tax that would fund the building of a light rail system.

Pinellas County listened and watched, as they themselves planned a similar referendum for 2011. In the wake of the Hillsborough vote, Pinellas has decided to wait until 2012 or 2013 to place a similar referendum on the ballot.

Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel serves as the chairman of a Pinellas' transportation task force and says much of the decision to table the Pinellas referendum was partially a result of what happened in Hillsborough.

"I think part of it was prompted by the Hillsborough vote," says Seel. "There was a definite feeling that this is not a good time economically to go forward with a sales tax. Analysis and polls done on our side of the bay show that while Pinellas residents are interested in light rail, they feel that now is just not a good time."

Seel says a proposed light rail plan would connect Pinellas and Hillsborough counties along the Howard Frankland bridge, as well as a line that would run from downtown Clearwater, through the Gateway/Carillon area and continue south to downtown St. Petersburg.

Seel says she hopes that voters will ultimately vote for light rail for the sake of the region.

"There's a real recognition among our young people that light rail is needed," she says."How do you attract bright minds when they can go to Charlotte and other metropolitan areas that have light rail and vibrant places to live, work and play. Right now we're just not competitive with other markets.The young and the restless of Florida need light rail."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Karen Seel, Pinellas County Commission

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