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Bay Area rail gets new backers as area falls far behind | News

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Bay Area rail gets new backers as area falls far behind

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Five new voices will speak up to support Greenlight Pinellas on Friday as Tampa Bay falls to the back of the pack in rail options.

The new endorsements are coming as Tampa Bay officially falls behind the entire rest of the east coast in opportunities to skip traffic by riding the rails.

The first passengers climbed "all aboard" on the Orlando area's new rail line Thursday. Ten thousand people packed the new SunRail system.

That now makes Tampa Bay the only major metro area from Key West to Maine with no rail option to avoid busy roads.

Side-by-side at St. Anthony's Hospital, faces linked to five of Pinellas County's most respected groups all pushed for Greenlight Pinellas on Friday.

It's a plan to more than double bus and transit options and add a 24-mile above-ground subway connecting Clearwater and St. Pete.

BayCare Health System, Raymond James Financial, St. Petersburg College, Pinellas Realtor Organization, and the Tampa Bay Rays all joined together for the endorsement.

Rays president Matt Silverman said this is about far more than getting fans to their games.

"More importantly to the Rays, this is an economic development issue," Silverman said.

"When companies look to relocate to the Tampa Bay area, transportation is a key factor. And currently, it is something that is working against us."

Greenlight Pinellas would change that, but voters would have to approve a one-cent sales tax increase this November to pay for it. A study shows that would cost the average family $104 a year.

If you're a homeowner, you would also get a tax cut. The part of your Pinellas property taxes that go toward transit right now would be eliminated, saving the average family $90 a year.

That difference works out to be a total tax increase of $14 a year for the typical Pinellas County family that owns a home.


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