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The Rays Tank: Florida Megacity & High Speed Rail Edition

While the big news right now is the quasi-signing of reliever Fernando Rodney by the Rays -- hold off on your judgement until we see the final terms of the deal -- I've got something a little bit different to share this morning: this article from the Atlantic Cities page on the development of "Megapolitan" cities. Two authors recently wrote a book "Megapolitan America", in which they discuss the future development of key urban areas across America. They see more metropolitan areas going the way of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and merging into one giant mega-metropolitan area, where large regions of the country are connected via transportation, commerce, planning, etc.

If you go to the article, you can see a graphic that highlights the 23 areas of the country the authors view as likely to evolve into megapolitan areas over the next 20-30 years. Chief among them is Central Florida:

Lang says that one of his megapolitan regions, Central Florida, is one of those prime candidates. Tampa and Orlando have a high degree of commuting integration, which would have been a good argument for high speed rail, but Governor Rick Scott returned the $2.4 billion the federal government had awarded the state for such a project. Lang argues that was a missed opportunity, not just for the transportation link, but for the economic link it would have helped solidify between the two cities - one with an active port, the other with an active airport.

"The whole region of Central Florida is a point of integration into the global economy," Lang says. "Because you could live across that region, if you had more effective transportation across it would have made it easier. Together those two markets could have gone from modest- to good-sized cities to a Dallas structure in terms of size and scale."

He says it was business interests pushing for the rail link, not transit advocates. "They were trying to link the two regions to help Orlando diversify its economy, to provide resilience in downturns."

There are some exciting times ahead for the Tampa Bay area, which is one of the reasons I shake my head whenever someone in the media suggests relocating the franchise. It just ain't happening. Florida has the potential to be a massive market one day, and the area is only improving in its infrastructure and connectedness. It's taking time to get there, probably because Florida's economy is still flummoxed with mortgage issues.

But as Josh Frank pointed out to me yesterday, Pinellas county will have a ballot measure next year to hopefully approve a local light-rail line. And the infrastructure for the high-speed rail line is ready to get off the ground as soon as Scott gets out of office. And Tampa has set up an advisory panel to help with their urban planning and development, and they seem to want to get a light-rail line of their own going. The area is about this close to breaking out and beginning a new wave of development and growth; it just may be a few years before that happens.

Anyway, rant over. The Rays have a bright future ahead of them, if only we can have some patience.

Other links? Yeah, there's a lot of them today.