City reviews transportation plans in advance of 'summit'

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:14 p.m.

With Alachua County's transportation "summit" looming next week, Gainesville staff plans to present $377 million in unfunded needs over the next 15 years.

Gainesville's presentation, which the City Commission reviewed Thursday, included $224 million for transit and $153 million for roads.

The transit plans included $80.6 million for the “blue line” -- the first leg of a planned bus rapid transit system. It would link The Oaks Mall, Butler Plaza, Shands at the University of Florida, UF, downtown and the airport.

There was also $76.5 million for a downtown streetcar or urban circulator now under discussion and $67 million to enhance Regional Transit System bus service.

The County Commission is considering putting a transportation sales tax up to a voter referendum in 2014. At this point, it remains to be seen if the proposed tax, if put to voters, would be for five years, 10 years, 15 years or some other span.

The City Commissioner did not take a vote Thursday and, at this point, the city's presentation of transportation needs is not a formal project list associated with a potential tax.

Last year, a roads tax the County Commission put on the ballot failed with significant opposition. The County Commission majority at that time drew the ire of the City Commission for removing the city's transit projects from the tax. The sticking point for the County Commission was bus rapid transit.

City Commissioner Lauren Poe said Thursday that the city's main priority for a potential transportation tax should be to “let each community exercise its home rule” in identifying its funding needs.

Commissioner Todd Chase said officials need to put forth a plan that can win approval when, in Chase's mind, there are voters on one side of the issue who would approve a 100-year tax and pass out jetpacks to everyone and voters on the other side who would never approve any tax.

The County Commission transportation summit is scheduled for 5:30-10 p.m. Wednesday at the Senior Recreation Center, 5701 N.W. 34th St.

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