Tampa Bay transportation groups are considering a merger and want to hear from the public. The Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization, Forward Pinellas, and the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization have sent out a survey for people to share their opinions.
There is a proposal to consolidate the three organizations into one, which the business community has long been supportive of. The survey gives participants the opportunity to play a role in allocating funding for transportation priorities instead of directly asking if they want a regional organization. Your voice matters – take the survey before Aug. 20!
“It’s a little more nuanced,” Hillsborough County TPO Executive Director Beth Alden said. ‘If you go out there with a question like, ‘Should the MPOs merge — yes or no?,’ you don’t get into any of the motivation for what people want and value. And that’s on top of the challenge that many people don’t even know what an MPO is.”
The state legislature has just approved a bill that will shake things up in the transportation world. Three organizations have been tasked with conducting a comprehensive study on the benefits, costs, and process of consolidation. And they have a deadline: the end of this year!
Why is this study so important? Well, for starters, workers in Florida frequently have to travel across county lines, especially when it comes to commuting to Tampa’s booming office hubs. But here’s the kicker – city leaders in Tampa have been hesitant to support regional initiatives. They’ve been so focused on their internal struggles to improve transit within their own borders that regional efforts have taken a backseat.
But with this bill and the upcoming study, there’s hope for a brighter future of transportation in Florida. The results of the study, due by the end of 2023, could pave the way for innovative solutions and better connectivity across the state.
A report prepared by the nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based Eno Center for Transportation in 2017 urges the Tampa Bay region to adopt best regional transportation governance practices. The report, commissioned by the Tampa Bay Partnership, recommends a merger to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Challenges Faced After MPO Merger in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley
In 2019, three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) merged into one in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. However, the merger posed certain challenges, as noted by the chairman of the newly formed organization.
“One of our board’s directives when we merged was obviously to make sure that all funds that had been committed to projects were being used, funded and that we were moving those projects forward,” Eddie Treviño Jr. told a local news outlet. “What we’ve realized as we’ve done the merger is that certain projects that maybe had preliminary funding or had committed funds weren’t as far along as the other projects that maybe didn’t have any funding.”
A new survey gauges Tampa Bay residents’ thoughts on the merger proposal; 200 responses have already been received. Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners voted 6-1 to receive the proposal report. Merger target date is set for July 2027.