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Roundup 11-30-2018

November 29, 2018

Contents

Transportation – Moving Forward

— Living in the Past

— HART Looking Forward

— Oversight Committee

— Brightline

Westshore-ish – Midtown

Downtown/Channel District – 1001 Water Street

Tampa Heights – What’s Next

USF – Med School Money

Downtown – Riverwalk Place

St. Pete – About Those Bike Lanes

Howard Frankland Trail

Airport – Odds and Ends

Rays – News-ish

Pasco – Imagine That

Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

_____________________________________________


Transportation – Moving Forward


– Living in the Past

As most will know, the situation in Hillsborough County has changed greatly in the last month. Hillsborough County just passed a transportation funding referendum.  The County Commission has also changed. So, in a perfect illustration of why we said the referendum was just step one in the process of getting proper transit,

At its regularly scheduled November meeting, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) Governing Board voted to accept and approve the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan (RTFP) and advance the recommended 41-mile Rubber Tire Rapid Transit Catalyst Project into its next phase, where the details of its design will be developed and environmental impacts evaluated. In May of this year, TBARTA executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), as well as its transit agency and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) partners, to become the primary recipient of the RTFP and responsible for its implementation.

Yes,

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority approved the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan by a majority vote with only member, commissioner Pat Kemp, voting no.

The plan was created to look at the feasibility of more than 20 regional transit options, including premium transit, to see what the most competitive alternatives would be for federal funding.

The focus is on establishing a 41-mile, bus-rapid transit option that would connect Wesley Chapel to St. Petersburg via Interstate 275. The project would be a catalyst project as the area would look at other solutions to help relieve congestion on the roads.

The next step is to proceed with the Florida Department of Transportation project development and environment phase, where the impacts, benefits, design options and costs are examined. 

Indeed.  The circumstances have completely changed, so, immediately thereafter, the TBARTA board approved the “BRT” plan.

This is the meeting video.

Let’s get back to the “BRT” plan itself.  It mostly does not have dedicated lanes.  It does not serve this area’s real transit needs (it is just the cheapest “premium” transit option). It is stuck on the interstate. It does not promote transit oriented development.  Moreover, there is little demonstrated public support for the plan (and there has been little to no real public outreach regarding it).  The “BRT” plan was very flawed when first proposed, and it has not gotten any better.  (Yes, the PD&E can work out some details, but it does not change the essence of the plan, which is the biggest flaw.  And even the purported timing is off: see the video @1:20:10 about the rebuild of the interstate through Westshore – which would be key to having it work – not even having a known completion date.)

“We’re excited about the needed and enhanced connectivity this project could provide to Tampa Bay residents, workers and visitors to our region,” said David Green, TBARTA Executive Director. “For an interstate like I-275, where approximately 200,000 vehicles travel daily, a robust transit service could have a significant and almost immediate impact, reducing congestion by up 20,000 vehicles, and eventually more as connections are made to the system.” Last month, the TBARTA Board selected Green, former CEO of the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC), to lead the agency. During his time with GRTC, the agency completed construction of Pulse, a 7.6-mile Bus Rapid Transit line. Green was also key in securing a $24.9 million US Department of Transportation TIGER Grant for the project.

First, the “BRT” plan is not robust transit.  It is just the cheapest option.  Second, as we have noted before, the Richmond BRT-ish line is on arterial roads.  The “BRT” plan is not. But, anyway.

The Mayor of St. Pete made this argument:

“I love light rail and I want light rail,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said, describing his experience of using light rail in Denver. “But I think an investment in BRT right now paves the way for light rail.

In addition, he made the point that with Brightline, which several board members said would come by 2024, that people will still want last-mile and first-mile solutions in getting to St. Pete.

“When people are going from Orlando to Tampa, I want people to have a way of getting to downtown St. Pete outside of getting into a car or having to rent a car,” Kriseman said.

He means the last 30 miles.  And a normal, real express bus would work just fine (not the overly expensive express bus pretending to be BRT in the “BRT” plan).  There is no need to spend $500 million on bus service just for Brightline to connect to downtown St. Pete, and no need to spend $500 million on such a poor plan. If the main goal is to get from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete, especially as there is no timetable for the Westshore interstate rebuild, it makes far more sense to have an express bus take the Selmon to the Gandy Bridge using the under construction Connector. (Oh, yea, and the “BRT” plan does not actually go to the discussed Brightline station locations, though it gets close to the old jail site.  Plus that would leave more Pinellas money for the St.Pete Beach BRT line to get done.).

The bigger point is that, setting aside the “BRT” plan’s lack of catalyzing potential, now that the transportation referendum passed, we do not need a catalyst project any more, at least not in Hillsborough County. Hillsborough has already answered the question of whether it wants transit with (real) dedicated lanes (and other transit).  It does not need a poorly conceived “BRT” plan to convince it to have transit. And Hillsborough’s coming transit network, including bus improvements, should not focus on feeding the interstate.) Hillsborough can go straight to actually useful projects that will spend the money it will have effectively and efficiently.  The “BRT” plan does neither. (As we have said over and over, normal express buses can do pretty much everything the “BRT” plan does for far less cost.)

The environment in Hillsborough is different from when the flawed “BRT” plan was first proposed. And Hillsborough County is at the geographic center of this area and has a population (1,408,864) almost equal to Pasco (515,077) and Pinellas (970,532) combined (1,485,609) .  The “BRT” plan does not serve Hillsborough’s needs. And it really does not serve the area’s needs either, especially in a cost-effective and efficient way. TBARTA can approve the “BRT” plan if they want, but that does not mean anyone actually has to (or should) pay for it.

We could go on and on about the failings of the “BRT” plan, but there is really only one point right now: it has no funding.  And it should not be funded.  We are all for connecting the area, but the “BRT” plan is a very weak.  This area deserves much better, and Hillsborough has taken the first step.   Instead of settling for poor plans executed badly, the Pinellas and Pasco should be working to join Hillsborough truly moving forward on real regional transportation (and go with the normal express buses in the meantime).


— HART Looking Forward

Speaking of HART, there was an article in the Times regarding what HART might do with its new funding:

Even before he arrived at the office the morning after election night, Jeff Seward was calling in instructions to the bus agency he heads.

Voters had just approved a new transportation sales tax that will boost the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority’s yearly operating budget from about $80 million to $200 million. Suddenly, the agency that was cutting routes in 2017 is now eyeing dozens of projects and bus service improvements that have languished on the drawing board for years.

“You all need to take a look at how we can more buses here and get them fast,” Seward, interim chief executive, told his operations team.

The changes will begin in 2019 with the expansion of the University area connector and the frequency of four major bus routes to every 15 minutes. In all, the agency hopes to add 900,000 miles of new service in 2019, which will require 30 new buses and a hiring blitz to find more than 60 new drivers.

And that is just the start.

New routes will be added in the next three years, Seward said, and the agency will begin planning for a new mass transit system linking the University area, downtown Tampa and Westshore as required by the county charter change that voters approved.

Setting aside that the referendum did not actually require any specific routes or connections, those are potentially good ideas, contingent on a number of factors, provided those connections are not the “BRT” plan.

The expansion of bus service planned for 2019 must still be approved by the full HART governing board next week. These are among dozens of proposed enhancements that were identified in the agency’s Transit Development Plan, which was developed with input from the public.

But with new funding now available, it makes sense for HART to go back to the public and the business community to make sure these still are the projects it should develop, Seward said.

It does make sense to ask again.  TBARTA are you listening?


— Oversight Committee

The first members of the transportation referendum oversight committee have been picked:

The first two appointments to the 13-member committee were announced in recent days. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn selected former Tampa state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, and Hillsborough County Clerk of Court Pat Frank named retired Hillsborough County Chief Circuit Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. These are both strong appointments. Joyner was Tampa’s first black female attorney and a pioneering civil rights activist. Menendez, a former federal prosecutor, rose to the top court post in his 31 years on the local judiciary. Both are serious and have demonstrated their commitment to public service. Their legal and government experience, knowledge of the community and professional integrity reflect the ideal of this appointment process.

And

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden has named CPA Dan Raulerson of Raulerson Castillo & Co. to serve on the county’s the All for Transportation oversight committee.

Raulerson, who is a CPA and a former legislator, also served as the mayor and city commissioner in Plant City.

It will be interesting to see who else is appointed.

More importantly, the Oversight Committee is the body that is going to have to decide questions like whether, if it gets funding (which it shouldn’t), the “BRT” plan’s use of shoulders is actually “dedicated lanes” for the purpose of the referendum. (hint: they aren’t)

In related news, there was an article in the Times about how much money the referendum might actually generate:

The Florida Department of Revenue estimates that the one percent tax for transportation will bring in $302 million in 2019, $26 million more than the estimate county officials used when they approved ballot language for the initiative.

In addition, the half-percent tax that voters approved for school repairs and construction is now expected to raise $151 million in 2019, about $13 million more than first projected by the school district.

The increases reflect Florida’s booming economy. Statewide, sales tax revenues in September —the most recent compiled — were almost $180 million more than in the same month last year. Similar increases earlier in the year led Department of Revenue officials to increase the revenue projections that it provides to help local governments budget for the upcoming year.

That may happen, and, if it does, great.  However, there could also be a recession or worse and revenues come in under projections.  We suspect that over 30 years, both will happen.  We prefer to stay conservative in our predictions and deal with surplus when it happens.  And whatever the case, the money should not be wasted on poor ideas.


— Brightline

There was Brightline news.  First, in what should be no surprise:

Brightline is moving on to the next step to establish an intercity passenger rail system connecting Tampa to Orlando as it received a key approval on Wednesday. The Florida Department of Transportation’s Selection Committee agreed to move forward in negotiating the lease agreement with Brightline.

Brightline would lease FDOT and Central Florida Expressway Authority rights of way for the rail line. FDOT has 90 days to negotiate the lease agreement.  

Who thinks they won’t get a lease?

Now, to the interesting news.  First, about their proposal:

From its station at the Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal Facility, which will also connect to South Florida by the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, Brightline will then exit the OIA property onto the Orlando Utilities Commission corridor, then join the Central Florida Rail Corridor, where it proposes to provide a cross-platform connection to SunRail’s Meadow Woods Station.

Finally, we know how Brightline intends people to actually get to and from Orlando.  The connection to SunRail is positive, assuming SunRail runs at greater frequency than it now does (which is not nearly enough).  But there is a downside: more stops means Brightline is slower and riders would need to pay for using SunRail (unless there is a package deal).  Nevertheless, at least Brightline recognizes the connectivity issue to getting to Orlando.

Brightline is also considering stops around Disney (for obvious reasons) and Lakeland.   Both ideas have usefulness and make sense, though, once again, the more stops, the slower the train.

The ticket price for the Orlando-to-Tampa route will be $35 per passenger for one way.

The projected ticket prices seem relatively reasonable, though how much it will cost to get to South Florida is what really interests us.

Next, about the business:

Brightline, the Miami-based train and real estate development company that wants to expand to Tampa, has a new partner: the Virgin Group, run by swashbuckling British tycoon Sir Richard Branson.

Brightline announced the partnership Friday and said it would change its name to Virgin Trains USA this month. Virgin Group will make a minority investment in Brightline, which will be managed and operated by Brightline executives and affiliates of its parent company, Fortress Investment Group.

“Virgin has built a respected and trusted brand in travel and hospitality,” Brightline chairman and co-founder of Fortress Investment Group Wes Edens said in an announcement about the partnership. “With our shared focus on customer experience, powered by a culture of innovation and disruption, we are well-positioned to build on our success.”

Virgin Group has more than 60 companies in travel, leisure, telecommunications, media, music, entertainment, financial services, health and wellness. In the United Kingdom, those interests include Virgin Trains, a high-speed intercity passenger rail system that it has run for 21 years. Last year, Virgin Trains carried more than 38 million passengers on the UK’s West Coast Main Line.

It is an interesting development, though what it means going forward is not entirely clear. A first thing is this:

Virgin Trains USA LLC quietly filed for an initial public offering to raise up to $100 million.

And this:

In a 200-plus page regulatory filing, the Coral Gables-based Brightline — which will be rebranded Virgin Trains USA in 2019 — provides insight on its financial standing and future plans, including what’s to come with the Tampa route.

The filing dated Nov. 16 states that Brightline anticipates commencing passenger rail operations for the Tampa expansion in 2021 and that the Tampa route, being served with Virgin trains, would only be an hour-long travel time period for passengers.

* * *

The Tampa expansion is expected to cost $1.7 billion, according to the filing. Brightline is roughly $625 million in debt and that figure is expected to increase substantially with the construction of the Tampa expansion and others in the works, according to the filing.

“Our ability to expand, including the Tampa expansion and the Vegas expansion, is dependent on our ability to raise funds through various potential sources, including equity and/or debt financing. We will need substantial additional funds to meet our expansion plans, including construction of the Tampa expansion and the Vegas expansion, and we have not yet secured such funds,” according to the filing.

The Vegas reference is a proposal for an LA to Las Vegas train. (They are also considering Atlanta to Charlotte, Dallas to Houston and LA to San Diego. )

Moreover,

When the Florida passenger rail systems are fully built out and operational between Miami and Orlando, Brightline said it expects to carry approximately 6.6 million passengers annually and that a fully built out and operational service between Orlando and Tampa would carry an additional 2.9 million passengers annually, which would result in fully operational annual stabilized ridership of approximately 9.5 million passengers.

The company anticipates the Florida passenger rail service to stabilize by the fourth quarter of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024 following an estimated two-year ramp up period during which ridership is expected to increase as travelers become acquainted with the new rail service and adjust their trip-making habits.

The consultant estimated the service between Miami, Orlando and Tampa to generate approximately $810 million of total revenue in its first stabilized year.

They certainly have ambitious plans.  Time will tell how it all works out.


Westshore-ish – Midtown

Midtown released more information regarding the Whole Foods and connected portions of the development.  Per URBN Tampa Bay:

Midtown Tampa is moving forward with its proposal for Whole Foods, apartments, and retail space at the northeast corner of Cypress and Dale Mabry. This particular block includes the 53,000 square foot Whole Foods store, 18,100 square feet of additional retail space, and 178 residential units.

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

 

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

From URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

Our opinion on this portion of the project has not changed. First, there is no need for the surface parking lot for the Whole Foods because there is a parking garage right above it.  Second, there is a ramp to said garage that apparently runs along Cypress, which is hardly conducive to activating that street.

While, from all indications, the Midtown project is internally nice, it still fails to interact with the surrounding area in an effective and positive way.  To be a true Midtown, the project should not be an urban island.  We are not opposed to the project, but it could be (and should be) better.


Downtown/Channel District – 1001 Water Street

There is more information about the proposed building at 1001 Water Street.  From Florida Future at SkyscraperCity:

Height – 304 feet
Office – 294,893 square feet
Retail – 10,108 square feet
Amenity Deck – 15,380 square feet
Parking – 295 spaces (provided off-site)

Here are some more renderings:

Southwest:

From Florida Future at Skyscraper City – click on picture for post

Southeast:

 

From Florida Future at Skyscraper City – click on picture for post

Northwest:

 

From Florida Future at Skyscraper City – click on picture for post

Site Plan (with the Med School):

From Florida Future at Skyscraper City – click on picture for post

It is a nice building (not really our favorite style but still nice) with some nice features (lie the balconies and street treatment).  And, as we have said before, we like that Water Street is using a variety of styles to make the area seem more organic.  No word on when exactly it will begin.

In further news (we would be shocked if you had not seen it yet) Sparkman Wharf, the redo of the Channelside Complex, will open on Friday, Nov. 30. You can get all the information you need at their website here.


Tampa Heights – What’s Next

The Heights project has received approval for the next two buildings: the office building and parking garage/hotel/grocery store/retail (Our previous discussion of each can be found at “Tampa Heights – Offices” and “Tampa Heights – Could Be Better” respectively). We expected approval, but we still think they can do better on the garage.


USF – Med School Money

USF is looking for the last bit of Med School funding.

The University of South Florida is still bullish on securing the funding it needs for its new $173 million Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

The Board of Governors Facilities Committee approved a Public Education Capital Outlay request recently that may help the school receive the $14.65 million in state funding it stillneeds for the new college.

The approval comes after a Florida Board of Governors workshop meeting the committee had on Oct. 16 when schools within the State University System presented their projects that administrators need PECO dollars.

So far, USF has received $97.89 million through PECO funds to reach its goal of $112.55 million, the maximum amount of PECO funding.

Through philanthropy and auxiliary funds, the school collected just over $40 million.

Given that the building is already topped out, we would be quite surprised if they don’t get it.


Downtown – Riverwalk Place

There was more background on Riverwalk Place’s switch to being all condos.

“We’ve had way better demand for the residential units than we expected,” Feldman says. “And we’re convinced that Tampa is greatly underserved in the luxury market.

Boren acknowledged that melding the office space and residential space together in a single building appeared to be somewhat difficult for consumers to become accustomed to in Tampa.

“Being the first is always difficult,” he says. “But it was a great offering to the market before and it will be a great offering with this change.”

* * *

Larry Feldman says the decision to eliminate the office space should not be viewed as an assessment of downtown’s market.

“This is no comment on the downtown office market, it’s very strong,” Feldman says. “It’s just that the condo market, we feel, is even stronger.”

Here are some more renderings floating around:

From Adache.com – click on picture for website

 

From Adache.com – click on picture for website

Like we said before, for most people the change to all condos (and the retail) will not make any difference. It still is an attractive building (while we don’t love it, we have even come to accept the garage), and if the change gets it built faster, fine with us. We look forward to it.


St. Pete – About Those Bike Lanes

The bike lanes on Martin Luther king in St. Pete are open.  The Times had an article on how they are doing:

The city spent about $1 million on a project that included adding extra-wide bike lanes on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N, but some riders are ignoring the investment and choosing to ride on the sidewalk instead.

“Oh yeah, I see it every day,” said Benjamin Wiley, who works at Banyan Cafe and Catering on King Street near Seventh Avenue N.

Wiley has a front-row seat to cars, bikes and people traveling the popular corridor between Fourth and 30th Avenues N. He said he sees more “athletic or serious” bikers in the new lanes, while many others continue to use the sidewalks like they did before.

“People use the bike lanes,” Wiley said, “but it hasn’t really made a difference. The sidewalks are so wide here, it’s just what people are used to.”

Some planners chalk this up to the newness of the project, which also included resurfacing, restriping and crosswalk improvements. People are creatures of habit, and it takes time to adapt.

But there’s another factor at play: No matter how safe or accessible you make something, some people insist on choosing their own path.

That does not surprise us at all:

It’s a phenomenon that stretches beyond one street or even St. Petersburg. Despite cities investing in wider bike lanes, including some with physical barriers from traffic or green paint to draw attention, transportation experts say there will always be riders who feel more comfortable on the sidewalk, as far away from moving cars as they can get.

“I think people generally have a fear of traffic, whether it’s the unpredictability or that people are distracted while driving,” Forward Pinellas executive director Whit Blanton said. “So they want to be up on a curb where they feel like they’re safer and it makes it less likely that a car is going to overtake them from behind.”

While a true physical barrier provides a measure of security, simply painting the road, even if you paint it green, does nothing to stop cars from driving (and swerving) into the bike lanes (not to mention the issue of intersections where bike lanes often magically disappear).

Though the lanes on King Street don’t have a physical divider between cars and bikes, like along First avenues N and S, they are more substantial than the four-foot lanes that are sometimes tacked on at the end of road projects. For a majority of the King Street corridor, the lanes are 6 feet wide and have an additional 2-foot striped buffer separating them from traffic.

“They’re wide enough that two people can ride abreast very comfortably,” Blanton said. “I don’t know why anybody would want to be on a sidewalk in that situation.”

If you ride a bike around this area, you know why people would rather not ride right next to cars, regardless of this:

The irony is that bicyclists are more at risk on the sidewalk than in the street, according to Bond, Blanton and Keri Caffrey, co-founder of CyclingSavvy, a nonprofit bicycling education program. All of them cited data kept by state and local agencies showing a higher rate of bicycle crashes on sidewalks. It’s a trend that’s true both nationwide and specifically in Pinellas County, Blanton said.

The sidewalk is “inherently a less safe place to ride because you’re out of the (line of sight) of most motorists,” Blanton said.

Drivers will scan for people walking before making a turn or pulling into traffic, but a person on a bike is moving more quickly and is more likely to catch drivers by surprise.

That may be true in some circumstances, but it does not change the fact – a fact we have observed over and over – that cars drive into bike lanes at seemingly random times (like when someone is not paying attention to the road).  Riding in a protected lane or on the sidewalk protects bikers from that. It may not be optimal, but it is true.

We are all for bike infrastructure and bike lanes are better than sharrows, which are basically nothing.  But protected lanes are infinitely better than just painted lanes. Separation from traffic is key, at least to perceptions of safety. It is just not surprising at all that many, if not most, people prefer sidewalks to painted lanes, no matter what the studies say.


Howard Frankland Trail

And that brings us to the Howard Frankland Bridge, from the Times:

You’ve likely heard that the Howard Frankland Bridge is about to undergo a major makeover.

The plan includes a bike and pedestrian path attached to a new eight-lane span. Think of it as a ninth lane, 12 to 14 feet wide, separated from traffic by a concrete wall and some fencing.

Walkers, runners and riders could get some exercise, enjoy the sea breeze and watch dolphins rise from the bay. Diehards could use it to commute.Sounds fantastic, a great way to capitalize on one of our natural assets. It sells itself, as the saying goes. At least until you see the price tag:

$35 million.

We are actually in favor of the lane, at least in theory.  While it will likely not be the busiest trail in the area, it still would be a good complement to the Courtney Campbell trail. You can be sure that if it is not done now, it is doubtful it would be done for a long time.

We understand the criticism that being right next to all the car travel lanes is not optimal.  That is definitely not the best place for bike/walk lane. Such a lane would be much better placed next to a transit lane.  On the other hand, in the other Bay area you can walk/bike across the Golden Gate Bridge (and a large number of people do it)   and the Bay Bridge. Those also have a lot of traffic.

The Howard Frankland is not the Golden Gate Bridge by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a connection that should be made for the future and this is the opportunity to make it.


Airport – Odds and Ends

There were a couple of airport related items in the last few weeks.  First,

Tampa International Airport is wrapping up the design phase for its $57.8 million project for a new taxiway and bridge.

The new elevated Taxiway A and Bridge at the Tampa International Airport will be located at the north end of the airport within a 57.49- area.

* * *

The project includes the realignment of an existing roadway that crosses under the new Taxiway A Bridge and the existing parallel Taxiway B Bridge, and the construction of an associated storm sewer system, according to an Environmental Resource Permit application from URS Corp. to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

This is basically a step to allow other steps in the master plan to go forward.

In additional news, we ran across this:

Tampa Airport Marriott is now offering guests a flexible and affordable way to make the most of their travel plans when flying in or out of Tampa International Airport. The Tampa airport hotel, conveniently located inside the airport, proudly unveils its day use rooms which are available to book between 10am-7pm any day for guests and business travelers who need to take advantage of the hotel’s ease of access to the terminal.

From long layovers to flight changes and cancellations, Marriott is aware of how unpredictable travel can be. These rooms offer a flexible solution for business travelers or guests who need to change their flight plans at the last minute. With amenities like high-speed internet, work desks, signature Marriott beds and custom furnishings, day use rooms offer all the extensive features of the hotel’s standard rooms.

Interesting.


Rays – News-ish

While there has been news, sort of, about the Rays stadium issue, most of it is speculative or incomplete.  We are not going to get into it in depth until there is something substantive.  However, if you are interested, there have recently been some articles on potential naming rights to the stadium (here), general business views (here), and hints at something odd (here and here).


Pasco – Imagine That

There was more news from Pasco this week:

A portion of nearly 7,000 acres of ranch land abutting the Suncoast Parkway is targeted for a proposed corporate business park that could include as much as 24 million square feet of office and industrial space.

Corporate entities tied to the Bexley family and Lennar, the nation’s largest home builder, are seeking county approval to begin the process of developing what is now agricultural land. A requested change in the county’s comprehensive land use plan would allow the property, already designated for future homes and commercial uses, to also include the corporate park. The Pasco County Commission is scheduled to give its initial consideration to the request on Dec. 11.

* * *

The proposed corporate park, expected to be about 800 acres, could feature multi-story office buildings, effectively putting a skyline in the center of the county. Officials hope the land-use change is just the first step toward significant corporate relocations and economic development projects bringing high-wage jobs to the county.

Setting aside that it takes more than “multi-story” buildings to make a skyline, the property does not just abut the Suncoast parkway.

The proposed land-use change, dubbed Project Arthur, would allow the land owners to seek future re-zonings to develop as many as 11,495 homes, 5.4 million square feet of non-residential uses and the corporate business park. The land is south of State Road 52 and bordered by the Suncoast Parkway on the west and the CSX Railroad line on the east.

Imagine that.  The land borders those CSX tracks.  This is the area.   The line goes right to Tampa (and Brooksville.)

As we said about another Pasco story about Lutz a few weeks ago, different people see different things.  Some people see overly expensive express buses as the key to the future. So people are fixated on roads and cars of all sorts. Other people see existing and underused connections that could be reused to make something better.  Of course, to use the CSX tracks for a real regional connection, Pasco would have both buy into rail and to change how it builds, but the opportunity is there.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of Florida

Lost in the election coverage was the fact that Hillsborough was not the only county to pass a transportation referendum after previous failures.

Broward voters cast a decisive ballot for better roads, less congestion and more public transit options Tuesday, agreeing to increase the sales tax they pay to bankroll $15.6 billion in transportation improvements over the next 30 years.

The successful sales tax referendum comes after voters defeated previous attempts in 2016, 2006 and 1990.

The vote means the county’s sales tax will increase Jan. 1 from 6 cents to 7 cents for every dollar of taxable goods purchased. About a third of the money will be paid by tourists and other visitors to the county. The money will be used to build wider roads, improve traffic signal synchronization, add buses and bus routes, install light rail and undertake hundreds of other road projects.

* * *

In order to lessen voter worries, the county agreed to set up a nine-member oversight committee to review how the sales tax money is being spent.

It will be interesting to see how FDOT and the legislature deal with two of the largest counties in the state voting for transit.


Meanwhile, In the Rest of the Country

Cnet had an interesting article on electric scooter safety.  You can read it here.

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