By Chelsea Favero, AICP
We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re trying to get your kids to school in Pasco and then drive through rush-hour traffic to your job in Tampa. Maybe you’re looking forward to making that cross-county trip to hit the beaches or see a show this weekend. Maybe you can’t wait to go bicycling on that gorgeous regional trail. Or maybe you’re thankful you can get to high quality doctors and emergency rooms quickly. For whatever reason you travel, we all need regional transportation options that can get us there safely.
Every other Friday, I used to drive over to the Florida Department of Transportation offices near Busch Gardens around lunch time, for a meeting that would have me trying to navigate back to my St. Petersburg home right around 5 p.m. While that was a less-than-ideal time to be driving through the heart of Tampa every two weeks, I loved the opportunity to be a part of the regional transportation conversation. These meetings were for the staff from each of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) in Tampa Bay to coordinate and develop regional transportation solutions.
“It’s essential to focus on our regional transportation needs and the amazing impact these projects can have on the millions of residents we serve. I am proud to represent Hillsborough County on the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance Board so we can work together with other transportation leaders to speak with one voice on our regional priorities,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman.
The region has been formally coordinating on regional transportation and advancing priorities since 1993. At that time the Florida Legislature created what is known as the West Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organizations Chairs Coordinating Committee (CCC) -try saying that five times fast- in Florida Statute to formalize regional transportation coordination in the region. This board includes the MPOs representing Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties. With staff support provided by each of the member MPOs and TPOs through an interlocal agreement, close coordination is critical to ensuring regional coordination happens in an efficient and effective way. Projects like the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail, the Gateway Expressway, Flamingo bus fares, the University Parkway Interchange and the Suncoast Parkway Extension have been built in large part due to this alliance.
In the last few years, the regional transportation conversation has been louder than ever in Tampa Bay. With the construction of a new span of the Howard Frankland Bridge underway, the Gateway Expressway nearing completion, the reconstruction of the Westshore interchange in the design stage, the SunRunner transit project under construction and other regional transit projects in the planning stages, our region is seeing a lot of momentum in advancing major transportation projects that seek to benefit us all.
“We know that transportation doesn’t stop at county lines, so neither can our plans and projects,” said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey. “Rebranding our regional transportation initiatives through the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance is the first step to making sure we’re planning for our citizens as a region.”
With this momentum, came a desire to rebrand the CCC to better reflect the work that it does for the region. The transportation leaders from across the West Central Florida region revealed a unified rebrand as the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance (SCTPA). Reinforcing its commitment to collaborating as a region, the SCTPA’s new tagline, “One Region, One Voice,” celebrates the variety of transportation options connecting the diverse communities the alliance serves. The SCTPA seeks to create a regional voice that augments the collective voice throughout the region and reflects the individual MPOs and TPOs’ unique local perspectives, emphasizing their own identity and ways of influencing transportation outcomes in their respective counties.
The SCTPA represents millions of residents from Brooksville to Sarasota and Clearwater to Winter Haven, coming together to plan, prioritize and fund transportation improvements that will shape the shared future of people living in and visiting the Sun Coast. The new website features a sleek, modern design so you can easily find essential information about what’s happening in your community and how to get involved in these regional decisions.
“I’m excited to see this rebrand for the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance. To improve the lives of residents in the Tampa Bay region, we must reimagine the way we talk about our regional transportation priorities; the best way to do that is to speak with one voice. I’m looking forward to seeing the incredible things we can achieve when we work together as a region,” said Forward Pinellas Chair Darden Rice.
The rebranding and website reveal of the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance is a recommitment to working together as a region and speaking with one voice about the important work we’re doing. This is only the first step, however, to ensuring we’re continuing to coordinate on projects and priorities to improve the quality of life for our residents and ensuring we’re thinking holistically about transportation throughout Tampa Bay. We may not always agree on a perfect solution, but we must continue to demonstrate our commitment to regional coordination as we plan and prioritize funding through the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance.
How to get involved with the Sun Coast Transportation Planning Alliance:
- Check out our new website: SunCoastTPA.org
- Follow us on Facebook & Twitter: @SunCoastTPA
- Sign up for updates: bit.ly/sctpaknow