Tampa — Streetcar Funding Diverted
Rail Transit Online, February 2008
Supporters of the TECO Line streetcar have charged Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) with taking $900,000 meant for an extension of the rail line and diverting it to an expansion of bus service, The federal grant would have helped pay for a four-block single-track extension from the Convention Center to Whiting Street in the downtown area. Streetcar advocates say the new trackage would substantially boost the 2.4-mi. (3.9 km) line's lagging ridership.
"To make this money disappear I think is
egregious and inappropriate," streetcar board vice president Michael English told HART officials during a Feb. 20 board meeting. "Your action has threatened our ability to move forward with the extension." Several Tampa city council members also criticized the move. But HART officials said the diversion was legal under terms of the grant, providing the county's Metropolitan Planning Organization agrees.
HART Executive Director David Armijo said the cash was needed to help fill a budget
deficit that would have resulted in decreased transit service. Armijo also contended the streetcar board won't meet FTA-imposed deadlines to produce a business plan and spend the federal contribution because it hasn't raised the entire $4.5 million needed to build the line. "They don't have a project until they have the money, and clearly they don't have the money," Armijo said. Streetcar officials say they have about half the required financing and loss of the federal