TAMPA — More than 60 people — mostly residents from nearby neighborhoods — packed into the Hilton Tampa Airport Westshore Thursday to hear more about a transit center the state plans to build in the median of Interstate 275.
Their concerns revolved around traffic and the displacement of employees, should the Florida Department of Transportation purchase and close the Doubletree Hotel and Charley’s Steakhouse, both of which sit on a nine-acre site targeted for the transit center.
The proposed center, which would go up between the interstate and West Cypress Street, is not yet funded, but if it is constructed, it would be used as a hub for a people mover from Tampa International Airport, as a bus depot for those using Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority buses and possibly as a future depot for light rail heading to Pinellas County. It could also include some commercial development.
Nothing is final yet, FDOT officials said. And the public still has time to comment on the project through July 28. Go to www.fdotd7studies.com or call Project Manager Elba Lopez at (813) 975-6403.
Jacquelyn Archie, who lives in the Carver City neighborhood nearby, said she wanted assurances the project would not affect her property value. “I have concern that I just updated my home and property value may be an issue.”
State officials said no residential property would be affected.
But jobs would be, said Elaine Van Aiken, representing some 200 employees of Doubletree. “This project will devastate hard-working families.” Many of the employees are seniors who have worked at the hotel for years and have little chance of finding another job, she said.
Kirk Bogen, environmental management engineer for FDOT, said relocation wouldn’t even be discussed until the project is funded. As for traffic issues, Bogen said a preliminary traffic study has been completed and FDOT will work with the city and its transit partners to try to ensure that the project has the least impact.
Maurice Harvey, president of the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens Civic Association said traffic on Lois Avenue has increased 10-fold in the past five years as more apartments have gone up in the area. It’s so bad already, he said, that people can’t get in and out of the neighborhood. He said he wants assurances from FDOT that the planned Westshore Regional Multimodal Center won’t exacerbate the problem.
Carmen DePalma, who also lives nearby, said she has used mass transit all over the world and looks forward to a nearby center she can use in her local travels. “I look for this to work and would love to even see a ferry from here going across to St. Pete.”