Florida awards Tampa more than $67 million for streetcar project

Dec. 9, 2020
The project will modernize the streetcar fleet and infrastructure while extending the system to provide better connections between employment hubs.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has awarded the city of Tampa $67.3 million for the Tampa Streetcar Extension Project.

The funding is through the state’s New Starts Transit Program, which aids Florida municipalities in developing fixed-route transit projects to accommodate growth. FDOT Secretary David Gwynn noted the grant is the largest awarded to the Tamp Bay region.

“To realize transit within our region is going to take a village. It’s going to take partnerships between the city of Tampa, HART, Hillsborough County, the state of Florida and the federal government, and (with this announcement) we’re well on our way towards the modernization and extension of our streetcar system,” said Tampa’s Director of Mobility Vik Bhide. 

The city explains the TECO Streetcar was built to invoke the historic Ybor City, but the system has potential to be a viable transportation option for residents to travel to and from downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.

The project calls for the modernization of the existing 2.7-mile TECO Streetcar line and a 1.3-mile fixed guideway extension. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) says the project support’s Tampa’s vision for “a livable, connected and competitive downtown.”

The heritage streetcar vehicles currently in use on the system would be replaced with modern and faster vehicles. Additional modernization work would include constructing level boarding at platforms, reconstructing tight turns, upgrading traction power and expanding the streetcar barn.

The proposed system extension would be built north on Florida Avenue to Palm Avenue where it would turn and then head south on Tampa Street.

Project stakeholders believe the new modern, expanded streetcar system will serve as a convenient and reliable commuter option to residents, workers and visitors in Tampa’s greater downtown area.  

Future connectivity is key, and this project will position the streetcar system to be ready for future expansions as Tampa continues to grow. Future connections include north up to the University of Southern Florida, east to East Tampa neighborhoods and west to Westshore and the airport. 

“By 2040, we will have 100,000 people living within walking distance of this streetcar system,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. “That says a lot.”

The project was accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Small Starts Project Development in June 2018. Tampa’s website says the city, in coordination with HART, had planned to submit a project ratings request to the FTA in August. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.