TAMPA, Fla. — President Joe Biden hasn’t signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, but elected officials, like Mayor Jane Castor, already know they plan to spend the money.
Mayor Castor met with state and local transportation officials and business leaders Tuesday morning to go over their options.
“We are in desperate need of transportation, infrastructure and mobility options here in the Tampa Bay Region,” she said.
And the area's biggest Achilles heel, according to Tampa’s mobility director Vik Bhide, is a lack of mass transit options.
“The challenge with transit is not just access to jobs,” he said. “It's the fact that we’re actually outgrowing our footprint with transportation to where we need more transit options.”
Some of the options they’re looking into: expanding bus service, activating the CSX lines, finding a way to connect downtown/ Ybor City to Tampa International Airport, and expanding and updating the city’s streetcar system. According to Bhide, these options will help when it comes to economic developments and jobs.
“Over the next 20 years, Tampa is the area where a lot of jobs are going to be focused,” he said. “Our interest in mass transit is not only in the city but the region.”
Roads and safety are also a priority. Officials are hoping there will be enough money coming from the infrastructure bill to help fix our roads. There’s also a portion of the bill that allows local governments to decide what they will spend the money on. Bhide said that could help as well.
“We’re also aware there’s the need to raise local revenue,” he said. “That is critical.”
The best way to raise local revenue, according to Bhide, is a surtax.
“We’re hoping that comes back on the ballot and the community understands the need to have skin in the game with local funding,” he said. “That could help with a gap in funding [from the infrastructure bill]."
President Biden is expected to sign the bill next week when Congress returns.