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Tampa - May 1999
   

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Tampa – Streetcar Update

Rail Transit Online, May 1999

An important but little known transit project is moving ahead quickly in the Tampa area, promoted mainly by community activists and financed in part by the private sector. The 2.4-mile line will use replica antique streetcars to connect Tampa’s Convention center with the historic district of Ybor City, also serving an ice hockey arena, the aquarium, hotels and a cruise ship terminal.   Ybor City contains many tourist-oriented entertainment venues and restaurants, and the trolleys are expected to attract both visitors and residents.  The project began in 1984 when local enthusiasts formed the Tampa and Ybor City Street Railway Society.  Generating sufficient support for the project, through community meetings and the lobbying of elected officials, took a dozen years.  But as a wave of redevelopment overtook the area, it became apparent that the trolley would help reduce traffic congestion by providing a means for people to travel between major traffic generators without having to get back into an automobile.  The city of Tampa and the local public transportation provider, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), formed a partnership to develop the streetcar line, which has an estimated price tag of $23 million.  Capital funding is coming from the city and a variety of grants under several state and federal government programs.  The $1.3 million in annual operating costs will come from four sources: A new tax assessment district covering the area to served by the trolley, an endowment fund created from private sector contributions in exchange for naming rights to individual cars, stations, etc. and from advertising and fares.  Neither HART nor the city will provide any operating subsidy.  The single track line will operate at 600 volts D.C. and have 12 stops and six passing loops, allowing six to nine minute headways using up to eight trolleys.  Much of the right-of-way will be separated from road traffic, reducing possible delays.  Final engineering is underway and bid solicitation for actual construction is due in August, with completion set for the end of 2000.  The goal is to start revenue service prior to the Super Bowl game in January 2000.  Last January, eight double-ended, double truck replica Birney cars were ordered from Gomaco at a cost of just under $5 million.  Although they will appear authentic to the untrained eye, the trams will have several modern-day features including all-important air conditioning and wheelchair accessibility via a bridgeplate to a high block installed at each station.  The cars will be 46-feet long over the anti-climbers and have 44 seats, although the crush load will be 88.  They will incorporate trucks and K35 controllers salvaged from Milan, Italy’s 70-year-old Peter Witt cars and will be powered by four 28 h.p. motors.   The first vehicle is due to arrive in September or October with regular deliveries continuing into early 2000.  They will be housed at a maintenance facility in a city-owned building that will be remodeled for that purpose during the summer.  With growing community support for the trolley, plans are already underway to extend the tracks into Tampa’s central business district.

 

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