A rebranded transportation group serving the Tampa Bay area in eight counties says it has big plans for how residents in the region get around in the future.
The Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance (SCTPA) has emerged from what used to be called the West Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Chairs Coordinating Committee, and announced its new name and website (https://suncoasttpa.org) in an Aug. 3 press release.
The alliance says it will “plan, prioritize and fund transportation improvements that will shape our shared future.”
The voting member from the Citrus/Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization is Citrus County Commissioner Jeff Kinard; the alternate is Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, who also is on the board of the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority.
The voting member from Pasco County is Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez.
The counties involved are, from north to south, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota.
“The SCTPA represents hundreds of thousands of residents from Brooksville to Sarasota and Clearwater to Winter Haven,” the press release says.
“We know that transportation doesn’t stop at county lines, so neither can our plans and projects,” said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey in the press release. “Rebranding our regional transportation initiatives through the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance is the first step to making sure we’re planning for our citizens as a region.”
Non-voting advisers include members of the Central Florida, Southwest and Tampa Bay Regional Planning councils; FDOT District 1; FDOT District 7; the Florida Turnpike; and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority.
The latter has been under attack by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who in a Tampa Bay Times story on July 19 called it a “useless entity” and told the paper he plans to again introduce legislation in 2022 to dismantle it. His original bill died in the Senate.
The catalyst for his latest criticism was TBARTA’s failure to attract a quorum for its July 16 meeting, the Tampa Bay Times story said.
On Aug. 3, Brandes said he hadn’t heard of the change in name of SCTPA.
“All they’re doing is rebranding, they’re not creating a new entity,” he said. “This is much ado about nothing.”
As for TBARTA, he doesn’t think SCTPA is duplicating what that organization does.
“But TBARTA doesn’t do anything,” he said. “That’s why it’s a useless entity. They do plans, but the plans never go anywhere.”
Spokeswoman Amy Elmore, of Forward Pinellas, said SCTPA, which has been in existence since 1983, has a broader vision than TBARTA, and they’re not competitors.
“We wanted to have a new name, a new website, new social media that really showed our commitment to speaking as one voice for the region,” she said.
“TBARTA is exclusively focused on transit planning and operations in the Tampa Bay area, and the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance plan and prioritize projects for all modes of transportation such as roadways, multi-use trails, technology projects and transit. TBARTA is a technical partner with the SCTPA,” Elmore said.
“We actually have a long-range transportation plan that talks about the region, a regional trails vision, a regional transit vision, different things happening throughout each of the communities.”
SCTPA’s regional priorities in Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties, according to its website (https://suncoasttpa.org/transportation-funding-priorities/), include the Suncoast Parkway Extension (Citrus and Hernando), the I-75 Interchange at Overpass Road (Phase I - Pasco) and the project to widen I-75 to six lanes (Hernando).
In addition to a regional express bus on I-275 in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, the region is working to get funding for regional trails such as the coast-to-coast trail and connectors in Hernando and Pasco counties.
“I’m excited to see this rebrand for the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance,” said Forward Pinellas Chair Darden Rice in the press release. “To improve the lives of residents in the Tampa Bay region, we must reimagine the way we talk about our regional transportation priorities; the best way to do that is to speak with one voice. I’m looking forward to seeing the incredible things we can achieve when we work together as a region.”