Potential for light rail in FDOT Westshore plan

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Relatively speaking, landing at Tampa International Airport is easy. It's what happens after that can be tricky.

"I am waiting for my ride," said Dana Pisillo of Sarasota. "They are stuck in traffic."

The Florida Department of Transportation says its $45 million purchase of land - currently occupied by Charley's Steakhouse and a Doubletree Hotel - will deliver a partial solution.

"All the pieces are really falling into place," said Kris Carson, a spokeswoman for FDOT.

The hotel and restaurant would be knocked down, and a so-called inter-modal station would be built. 

The recent re-build of Interstate 275 purposely left open space in the median for rail tracks to go from downtown Tampa to St. Pete, via a soon-to-be improved Howard Frankland.

HART service would ramp up as well. And a tram would connect the airport to the Westshore station.

"The growth in Florida is unbelievable," said Carson. "You have seen the studies that have come out, we are just growing so crazy, it's a good thing, we have to keep up with it, and the congestion is pretty unbearable on the interstate system."

There is also significant pressure to alleviate traffic in the Westshore Business District, which is home to 4,000 businesses and 94,000 employees.

"My office is eight minutes from my house without traffic," said Scott Gallagher, who works in Rocky Point. "It is an hour and ten or twenty minutes during rush hour."

The restaurant and hotel will be open for at least two more years while more plans are made.