County Leaders Discuss Transportation For Economic Development Initiative

By Tamas Mondovics

County government officials turned their attention to Riverview earlier this month during a public meeting that facilitated a discussion about transportation planning for economic development and job creation in Hillsborough County.

Held on Monday, December 2 at the Riverview Civic Center located at 11020 Park Dr., the events purpose was to get some public input but only managed to entice a few local residents who took time out of their busy schedule following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“We have seen various size groups including one of the first meetings that drew a full house downtown,” said Hillsborough County Strategic Planning Director, Eric Johnson. “The smaller group allowed for a less formal setting.”

Since it began, the Transportation for Economic Development (TED) in Hillsborough County initiative has brought officials from Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) together to develop a plan for transportation needs to support job growth in our community.

“With the public’s help, we are working to make existing job hubs successful while promoting the creation of other job hubs in our community,” Johnson said.

Chaired by consultant Herb Marlowe, the program featured Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, County Planning Commission and MPO Executive Director Ray Chairamonte, Plant City Manager Gregory Horwedel, Tampa Transportation Manager Jean Duncan, City of Temple Terrace Manager Gerald Seeber, and Hillsborough County Public Works Director Mike Williams.

Merrill explained that the series of TED meetings are intended to collect information regarding transportation needs and optimization programs focusing on active transportation, alternative modes, roadway enhancements and demonstration projects.

“This is about transportation that relates to our ability to engage in business or transport the public in an adequate and efficient manner with the focus on enhancing our ability to retain as well as to attract new jobs in Hillsborough County,” Merrill said.

Merrill emphasized that not all forms of transportation are right for everyone, hence the need to understand the various communities and that the purpose of the TED initiative is to support a sustainable economy through job growth.

“Transportation is vital to a free-flowing commerce,” Merrill said.

Riverview Chamber of Commerce President, Donna Fore, who is currently running for Hillsborough County District Four Commission seat, acknowledged the plan for economic development but questioned the panel about the means of funding future projects.

“Riverview area residents say that they are already paying too much tax,” Fore said. “How can funds be increased for transportation without increasing the sales tax?”

Merrill replied that the first step is to utilize the county’s existing transportation facilities and improve roadways, but added that some additional funding will be necessary.

“We must build trust,” he said. “We are hoping to convince residents that the comprehensive plan will benefit all.”

The TED panel will continue to gather information as it makes its way throughout the county.

For more information on this project and dates for upcoming meetings are available online at www.HillsboroughCounty.org/TED.