Light Rail Opponents Pick Up Steam

Light rail opponent
Karen Jaroch speaks at the Blaise Alfano Conference Center
TAMPA (2010-9-22) -

It's been called one of the most important ballot measures to go before Hillsborough County voters in decades. A sales tax referendum would pay for light rail and improved buses and roads. But opponents say it's too high a price to pay.

Building the first two legs of the proposed light rail line would cost nearly $3 billion. And that doesn't include the cost of running the system. That was just one of the concerns aired during an anti-sales tax rally held last night in Tampa. One of the speakers was Karen Jaroch, who chairs the Tampa 9-12 Project, which is opposed to new taxes.

"The projections are that if they build this rail, it will take 2 percent of the people off the roads," says Jaroch. "It will not alleviate congestion, because all the smart growth policies they do to support the transit-oriented development will actually cause more congestion. So it's a boondoggle that will not serve it's intended purpose."

Opponents of the proposed light rail system say it would serve only a tiny fraction of Hillsborough's residents, while raising sales taxes by 14 percent. Wendell Cox, a public policy consultant from St. Louis, says it would cost less to give every light-rail passenger a luxury car than to build the rail lines. And higher densities proposed for rail corridors would actually increase the number of cars on nearby roads.

"One, light rail is not going to reduce traffic congestion," says Cox. "Two, it is hideously expensive, three, it could very well increase traffic congestion and four, that's not good for your health. "

Backers of the one-cent transit tax say Hillsborough County is dead last in mass transportation among the top 60 metro areas for commuters. They say Hillsborough County can't build enough new lanes of roads to handle the growth of traffic in the future.

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