As bus rapid transit plans progress, Tampa Bay transit leader will step down

Ray Chiaramonte Democrat for Hillsborough County Commission District 7, , , , ,
By   – Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority Executive Director Ray Chiaramonte plans to announce he’s resigning, during an emergency meeting on June 22, he told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Chiaramonte plans to stay on board for one month before leaving his post.

The agency is in the midst of planning the region’s transit future including a 41-mile bus rapid transit route the business community is pushing to implement.

TBARTA will not hire an interim executive director while it searches for a permanent replacement, according to Michael Case, the agency’s principal planner and project manager. Case will take on Chiaramonte’s leadership role while searching for a replacement but will not assume Chiaramonte’s title.

Chiaramonte previously announced he would be stepping down in February 2019, but is hastening his departure to run for Hillsborough County Commission.

“I really want to do this so I need to focus my energy on doing this,” Chiaramonte said of his political bid.

The longtime public servant has led TBARTA since early 2015 and has seen the agency through a transition from a transportation agency to a transit agency. Last year the Florida Legislature tasked TBARTA with facilitating regional transit plans, an extension on what had been a largely symbolic role in transit planning and the operator of a regional van pool program.

Chiaramonte initially said he was choosing not to seek an extension to his employment contract because the agency should have a leader more equipped to handle transit planning.

While Chiaramonte’s departure comes at a crucial time in the region’s transit planning, Case said his announcement is actually good timing because it will give his replacement the opportunity to “hit the ground running” with the regional BRT proposal.

Jacobs Engineering, the firm tasked with studying and planning a regional transit “catalyst” project, is set to wrap up its findings later this year. Meanwhile TBARTA has already hired a national transportation leader search firm, Maryland-based Krauthamer and Associates, to complete its search for a new executive director this fall.

Case said he anticipates someone in place by late September or October, but that time frame is subject to change.

Chiaramonte, a Democrat, is running for Hillsborough County Commission District 7 currently held by Republican Al Higginbotham. His announcement last week came after Commissioner Sandy Murman announced she would let her existing term in her District 1 seat expire rather than running for the countywide seat she had been expected to seek.

Chiaramonte’s political bid continues his position in the Tampa Bay transportation limelight. The issue is expected to be a top talking point throughout the campaign as residents become increasingly frustrated with growing congestion.

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