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Tampa, Florida/Tampa Bay Regional Rail System

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Tampa Bay Regional Rail System

Tampa, Florida

(November 1999)

(Tampa Bay Regional Rail Map)


The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), in cooperation with the Hillsborough and Polk Counties metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) and the cities of Lakeland and Tampa, are proposing to implement the Tampa Bay Regional Rail System. A first step to the proposed rail system is a 30 mile, 30 station "Early Action Plan" minimum operable segment (MOS). The MOS would utilize Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rail technology in two corridors: a 19-mile Northeast/Southwest Corridor and a 11-mile West Corridor. Capital cost estimates for the proposed 30 -mile investment total $953.8 million (escalated), with a proposed Section 5309 share is $476.9 million. Annual operating costs are estimated at $19.8 million (escalated). HART estimates 37,000 average weekday boardings in 2020 on the proposed 30-mile segment.

The Early Action Plan MOS is a portion of a proposed $4 billion locally preferred strategy for implementing a regionwide package of multimodal transportation investments, including a 39-station, 71-mile Regional Rail System. The proposed Regional Rail System would provide service throughout Hillsborough County and a portion of Polk County, including the cities of Tampa, Lakeland, and Plant City. Current capital cost estimates for the complete 71-mile system total $1.09 billion, while annual operating and maintenance costs are estimated at $40.0 million (both in 1997 dollars). HART is planning for completion of the full 71-mile Regional Rail System by 2015.

Tampa Bay Regional Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Rail;
30.0 miles, 30 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $953.8 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $476.9 million
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $19.8 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 37,000 average weekday boardings
27,300 daily new riders
FY 2001 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2001 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2001 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating of Not Recommended is based on the project's lack of committed non-Federal funding. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1999. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


A Major Investment Study (MIS) to address alternatives for enhancing mobility throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, Lakeland, and Polk County was completed in April 1998, with the selection by local stakeholders of the multimodal Locally Preferred Strategy, including the 71-mile Regional Rail System. The MIS also identified 28.5 miles of rail investment in the Northeast/Southwest and West Corridors to be included in the regional Early Action Plan. The Year 2020 Long-Range Transportation Plan, which incorporates both the Early Action Plan and Locally Preferred Strategy, was formally adopted by the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization Board in November 1998. FTA approved initiation of the Preliminary Engineering/Environmental Impact Statement phase for the two corridors in the Early Action Plan in January 1999. While in Preliminary Engineering, the Early Action Plan MOS has increased in length from 28.5 miles to 30 miles; the following criteria reflect the change. The Preliminary Engineering/Environmental Impact Study phase of project development is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2000. A public referendum to establish a local funding mechanism to cover the local share of capital and operating costs for the project has been scheduled for November 2000.

TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(89) authorized the Tampa Regional Rail System for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $5.94 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for this project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA's Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. The criteria evaluated are for the 30 mile Early Action Plan MOS. The Early Action Plan includes a significant expansion of bus service (a projected doubling of the existing fleet) included in the Transportation Systems Management (TSM) alternative.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design, and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the project’s strong cost effectiveness and environmental benefits, off-setting relatively poor estimated mobility improvements and existing transit supportive land use.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

The 30-mile MOS is expected to serve 37,000 average weekday boardings and 27,300 daily riders by 2020. HART estimates the following annual travel time savings for the Early Action Plan compared with the No-Build and Transportation System Management (TSM) alternatives.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings decrease of 2.2 million hours increase of 1.8 million hours

Based on the 1990 census data, there are estimated 6,053 low-income households within ½ mile radius of the proposed 30 stations, or 22 percent of the total households within ½ mile of proposed stations.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: High

The Tampa area is currently classified as an attainment area for ozone and carbon monoxide. HART estimates the following reductions in annual regional emissions for the Early Action Plan.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 368 annual tons decrease of 251 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) decrease of 55 annual tons decrease of 39 annual tons
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) decrease of 44 annual tons decrease of 30 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) N/A N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 17,825 annual tons decrease of 12,574 annual tons

HART estimates the following changes in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units-BTU) for the Early Action Plan.

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 233,738 million annual BTU decrease of 164,625 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: High

HART estimates a decrease in systemwide operating costs per passenger mile for the Early Action Plan compared to the No-Build and the TSM alternatives.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (1999) $0.50 $0.54 $0.44

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1999 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

HART estimates the following cost effectiveness indices for the Early Action Plan in the year 2020.

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.50 $8.40

Values reflect 2015 ridership forecast and 1997 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium land use rating reflects existing low to moderate densities along the corridor. Some credit is given to continued local efforts to plan for some transit-supportive future land use patterns.

Existing Conditions: The proposed Early Action Plan MOS corridor would provide DMU service from predominantly low-density suburban residential areas to the Tampa Central Business District. The dominant land use in the CBD is office development, although there are also a number of entertainment attractions downtown, including the Florida Aquarium, Garrison Seaport Center, the Ice Palace, the Tampa Convention Center, and Harbour Island. The Early Action MOS is proposed to connect the CBD with a few major activity centers in the region, including the University of South Florida, the Tampa International Airport, and the Port of Tampa. Development along the Northeast Corridor is generally medium density in residential areas with some commercial and industrial nodes. The Southeast and West Corridors are a mix of moderately dense residential and commercial development. Parking is generally in ample supply throughout the proposed corridors. The MIS for the project confirmed that existing land use codes did not generally support a transit-and pedestrian-oriented environment.

Plans and Policies: HART continues to work towards facilitating the implementation of transit-oriented supportive land use polices and urban design strategies. The Tampa Bay Comprehensive Plan includes general transit-supportive corridor policies but there is little consideration of land use policies pertaining specifically to the proposed rail corridors. The Tampa Bay Comprehensive Plan further reflects growth management policies for the metropolitan area; however Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa land use codes do not include highly transit-supportive growth management policies. Long-range development and land use plans of the City of Tampa include policies that support intensification of development in the CBD, where several stations would be located. The Comprehensive Plan does incorporate the creation of overlay zones. Parking management policies identified in the Comprehensive Plan and Strategic Regional Policy Plan do not directly relate to the proposed rail corridors.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

HART estimates a total cost for the 30-mile rail component of the Early Action Plan of $953.8 million (YOE), and proposes to fund it with $476.9 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Starts funding and $476.9 million (50 percent) in state and local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium rating reflects limited documentation detailing the financial commitment for HARTline's Early Action Plan. The local funding proposed for this project is contingent upon a dedicated sales tax referendum proposed for November 2000

Agency Financial Condition: HARTline's New Starts financial submission is based on historical and projected cash flow analysis. Past information suggests the agency's current financial condition is adequate.

Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Cost estimates for the Early Action plan have increased from $726.3 million to $953.8 million (YOE dollars) since last year. The project’s current cost estimate reflects the average of high- and low-cost build alternatives studied in the corridors, and are assumed to change as the project progresses through preliminary engineering.

Existing and Committed Funding: No non-Federal funding is yet committed to the proposed project. FDOT will not commit its proposed contribution ($357.7 million) until HART secures local funding for the project.

New and Proposed Sources: Proposed local funding for the Early Action Plan would come from a ½ cent countywide dedicated sales tax. A referendum on the sales tax increase is scheduled for November 2000.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium rating reflects HARTline's lack of a funding source to operate the proposed project.

Agency Financial Condition: According to HARTline's 1998 Annual Financial Report, the agency’s operating revenues total $24.3 million and compared favorably with expenditures of $23.4 million. While HARTline is maintaining a positive operating balance and is in sound condition, the agency’s ability to implement rail and expand its bus service is contingent upon securing a new dedicated funding source.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Annual operating costs are estimated at $19.8 million in YOE dollars. HARTline has not developed a financing plan that specifies contingencies.

Existing and Committed Funding: HARTline has estimated that 30 percent of project operating costs will be recouped at the farebox. HARTline's other existing operating revenues include FDOT State Block Grant funds and operating support from the City of Tampa through local gas and property assessment revenue.

New and Proposed Sources: Sixty-two percent of the projected operating revenue for the Regional Rail project is expected to be derived from a new dedicated ½ cent sales tax, to be voted upon in a November 2000 referendum.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Start $476.9 $5.94 million appropriated through FY 2000
State: $357.7


Local: $119.2


Total: $953.8

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Tampa Bay Regional Rail System Map. A first step to the proposed rail system is a 30 mile, 30 station Early Action Plan minimum operable segment (MOS). The MOS would utilize Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) rail technology in two corridors: a 19-mile Northeast/Southwest Corridor and a 11-mile West Corridor.

Commitment to Accessibility: DOT is committed to ensuring that information is available in appropriate alternative formats to meet the requirements of persons who have a disability. If you require an alternative version of files provided on this page, please contact