SCAT bus officials are moving ahead with its plan for a bus-rapid transit system (BRT).
The idea is to create dedicated bus lanes from University Parkway to the Bee Ridge Road area to give passengers a faster ride. But it comes at a steep price — an estimated $72 million.
SCAT General Manager Anthony Beckford said he has received word from the federal government that he can move forward with the project. Beckford is applying for a federal grant to pay 80% of the project cost.
The project will now go to the planning and design phase. Beckford hopes to open the BRT in late 2011 or early 2012.
The BRT option SCAT is pursuing includes buying a portion of rail corridor from Seminole Gulf Railway and CSX, stripping it of the tracks and paving it for exclusive use of SCAT buses.
Negotiations are ongoing with the rail companies for the purchase of the corridor, said Beckford.
“The buses will look like rail cars, but they don’t run on rails,” Beckford said.
One technology Beckford foresees on the buses is the ability to flick a switch and activate traffic signals, so the buses rarely have to stop inbetween bus stops.
If SCAT is able to purchase the rail line, it would also be used as a linear park for walking and biking when the buses aren’t traveling on those lanes. Beckford said it could eventually hook up with The Legacy Trail south of Clark Road.