Does Tampa Bay Area Need A Light-Rail Network?

There’s a reason the “No Tax for Tracks” logo features railroad tracks running up against a stop sign.

With its sticker-shock price of $1.6 billion, the 24-mile light-rail link between the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Clearwater is one of the most expensive publicly funded projects in the Tampa Bay area ever. It is also the most debated part of the $2.2 billion Greenlight Pinellas mass-transit plan.

Backers depict a sleek, modern light-rail network that will transform built-out Pinellas County, spurring millions of dollars of more dense urban development around its 16 stations that will, in turn, attract younger residents and high-paying jobs to Pinellas.

The fate of the light-rail plan hinges on the referendum Nov. 4, with the mayors of both Tampa and St. Petersburg saying voter approval of a 1-cent sales tax hike to pay for the Greenlight Pinellas plan is a crucial first step toward the development of a regionwide transit system.

Without it, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn belives the Tampa Bay area will continue to lose young residents and big employers to more urban communities.

For more on this story, visit Christopher O’Donnell, Tampa Tribune.