Every now and again TBARTA and Polk officials get together to discuss Polk joining TBARTA to more evenly round-out TBARTA's regional mission. They were close this time, it seems, but word crawled up the ladder that certain legislators were too far outside the loop and to them that was enough to tank further talks. The current bill's evangelist, Senator Bill Gavano, pulled his effective sponsorship when fellow legislators Kelli Stargel and Denise Grimsley, both senators (all mentioned names are republican), balked. Gavano has suggested that Stargel misunderstood his intentions, but I fail to understand how wanting to make sure Polk County is included in mass transit progress on a regional scale, could be "misconstrued" as a negative.
At issue root is the feeling that TBARTA was being jimmied too quickly on the last day of the legislative calendar. However, that may or may not be the real reason.
Commission Chairman Todd Dantzler said there may be some other issue in the background that’s influencing the debate.
I'm not really sure who an organization is "supposed" to talk to, but the slighted lot in this case seem really miffed about it. At the county political level Polk has already come out in various ways as wanting to be part of the agency's planning and event horizon, so the sudden halt by quibblers was probably regarded as something of a depressing surprise.
Polk buy-in to TBARTA is important long-term when talking about rail. Its county borders are the farthest north touching the Orlando metropoliton area and, even that aside, is certainly a crucial component to long-range intercity or commuter rail. At the very least it is a commuter rail connection between Lakeland and downtown Tampa, perhaps.
Let's hope whatever is driving this opposition comes around sooner than later.