(1) The express purposes of the authority are to:
(a) Plan, implement, and operate mobility improvements and expansions of multimodal transportation options for passengers and freight throughout the designated region.
(b) Produce a regional transit development plan, integrating the transit development plans of participant counties, to include a prioritization of regionally significant transit projects and facilities.
1. The authority shall provide to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on or before the beginning of the 2018 Regular Session, a plan to produce the regional transit development plan.
2. The regional transit development plan prepared by the authority must adhere to guidance and regulations set forth by the department or any successor agency, including, but not limited to:
a. Public involvement;
b. Collection and analysis of socioeconomic data;
c. Performance evaluation of existing services;
d. Service design and ridership forecasting; and
e. Financial planning.
(c) Serve, with the consent of the Governor or his or her designee, as the recipient of federal funds supporting an intercounty project or an intracounty capital project that represents a phase of an intercounty project that exists in a single county within the designated region.
(2)(a) The authority has the right to plan, develop, finance, construct, own, purchase, operate, maintain, relocate, equip, repair, and manage those public transportation projects, such as express bus services; bus rapid transit services; light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail, or other transit services; ferry services; transit stations; park-and-ride lots; transit-oriented development nodes; or feeder roads, reliever roads, connector roads, bypasses, or appurtenant facilities, that are intended to address critical transportation needs or concerns in the region as identified by the authority. These projects may also include all necessary approaches, roads, bridges, and avenues of access that are desirable and proper with the concurrence of the department, as applicable, if the project is to be part of the State Highway System.
(b) Any transportation facilities constructed by the authority may be tolled. Fare payment methods for public transportation projects shall promote seamless integration between regional and local transit systems. Tolling technologies shall be consistent with the systems used by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise for the purpose of allowing the use of a single transponder or a similar electronic tolling device for all facilities of the authority and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.
(c) The authority shall coordinate and consult with local governments on transit or commuter rail station area plans that provide for compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development that will support transit investments and provide a variety of workforce housing choices, recognizing the need for housing alternatives for a variety of income ranges.
(3)(a) The authority shall develop and adopt a regional transit development plan that provides a vision for a regionally integrated transportation system. The goals and objectives of the plan are to identify areas of the region where mobility, traffic safety, freight mobility, and efficient emergency evacuation alternatives need to be improved; identify areas of the region where multimodal transportation systems would be most beneficial to enhance mobility and economic development; develop methods of building partnerships with local governments, existing transit providers, expressway authorities, seaports, airports, and other local, state, and federal entities; develop methods of building partnerships with CSX Corporation and CSX Transportation, Inc., to craft mutually beneficial solutions to achieve the authority’s objectives, and with other private sector business community entities that may further the authority’s mission; and engage the public in support of regional multimodal transportation improvements. The plan shall identify and may prioritize projects that will accomplish these goals and objectives, including, without limitation, the creation of express bus and bus rapid transit services, light rail, commuter rail, and heavy rail transit services, ferry services, freight services, and any other multimodal transportation system projects that address critical transportation needs or concerns, pursuant to subsection (2); and identify the costs of the proposed projects and revenue sources that could be used to pay those costs. In developing the plan, the authority shall review and coordinate with the future land use, capital improvements, and traffic circulation elements of its member local governments’ comprehensive plans and the plans, programs, and schedules of other units of government having transit or transportation authority within whose jurisdictions the projects or improvements will be located to define and resolve potential inconsistencies between such plans and the authority’s developing plan.
(b) The authority shall consult with the department to further the goals and objectives of the Strategic Regional Transit Needs Assessment completed by the department.
(c) Before the adoption of the regional transit development plan, the authority shall hold at least one public meeting in each of the counties within the designated region. At least one public hearing must be held before the authority’s board.
(d) After its adoption, the regional transit development plan shall be updated every 5 years before July 1.
(e) The authority shall present the regional transit development plan and updates to the governing bodies of the counties within the designated region and to the legislative delegation members representing those counties within 90 days after adoption.
(4) The authority may undertake projects or other improvements in the regional transit development plan in phases as particular projects or segments become feasible, as determined by the authority. The authority shall coordinate project planning, development, and implementation with the applicable local governments. The authority’s projects that are transportation oriented must be consistent to the maximum extent feasible with the adopted local government comprehensive plans at the time such projects are funded for construction. Authority projects that are not transportation oriented and meet the definition of development pursuant to s. 380.04 must be consistent with the local comprehensive plans. In carrying out its purposes and powers, the authority may request funding and technical assistance from the department and appropriate federal and local agencies, including, but not limited to, state infrastructure bank loans.
(5) The authority is granted and may exercise all powers necessary, appurtenant, convenient, or incidental to the carrying out of the aforesaid purposes, including, but not limited to, the following rights and powers:
(a) To sue and be sued, implead and be impleaded, and complain and defend in all courts in its own name.
(b) To adopt and use a corporate seal.
(c) To have the power of eminent domain, including the procedural powers granted under chapters 73 and 74.
(d) To acquire by donation or otherwise, purchase, hold, construct, maintain, improve, operate, own, lease as a lessee, and use any franchise or property, real, personal, or mixed, tangible or intangible, or any option thereof in its own name or in conjunction with others, or any interest therein, necessary or desirable for carrying out the purposes of the authority.
(e) To sell, convey, exchange, lease as a lessor, transfer, or otherwise dispose of any real or personal property, or interest therein, acquired by the authority, including air rights.
(f) To fix, alter, establish, and collect rates, fares, fees, rentals, tolls, and other charges for the services and use of any light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail, bus rapid transit, or express bus services, ferry services, highways, feeder roads, bridges, or other transportation facilities owned or operated by the authority. These rates, fares, fees, rentals, tolls, and other charges shall always be sufficient to comply with any covenants made with the holders of any bonds issued pursuant to this part; however, such right and power may be assigned or delegated by the authority to the department.
(g) To borrow money and to make and issue negotiable notes, bonds, refunding bonds, and other evidences of indebtedness or obligations, either in temporary or definitive form, hereinafter in this chapter sometimes called “revenue bonds” of the authority, for the purpose of financing all or part of the mobility improvements within the region, as well as the appurtenant facilities, including all approaches, streets, roads, bridges, and avenues of access authorized by this part, the bonds to mature not exceeding 40 years after the date of the issuance thereof, and to secure the payment of such bonds or any part thereof by a pledge of any or all of its revenues, rates, fees, rentals, or other charges.
(h) To adopt bylaws for the regulation of the affairs and the conduct of the business of the authority. The bylaws shall provide for quorum and voting requirements, maintenance of minutes and other official records, and preparation and adoption of an annual budget.
(i) To lease, rent, or contract for the operation or management of any part of a transportation system facility built by the authority. In awarding any contract, the authority shall consider, but is not limited to, the following:
1. The qualifications of each applicant.
2. The level or quality of service.
3. The efficiency, cost, and anticipated revenue.
4. The construction, operation, and management plan.
5. The financial ability to provide reliable service.
6. The impact on other transportation modes, including the ability to interface with other transportation modes and facilities.
(j) To enforce collection of rates, fees, tolls, and charges and to establish and enforce fines and penalties for violations of any rules.
(k) To advertise, market, and promote regional transit services and facilities, freight mobility plans and projects, and the general activities of the authority.
(l) To cooperate with other governmental entities and to contract with other governmental agencies, including the Federal Government, the department, counties, transit authorities or agencies, municipalities, and expressway and bridge authorities.
(m) To enter into joint development agreements, partnerships, and other agreements with public and private entities respecting ownership and revenue participation in order to facilitate financing and constructing any project or portions thereof.
(n) To accept grants and other funds from other governmental sources and to accept private donations. However, the authority shall not be directly eligible for Transportation Regional Incentive Program funds allocated pursuant to s. 339.2819, except through interlocal agreement with an eligible recipient.
(o) To purchase directly from local, national, or international insurance companies liability insurance that the authority is contractually and legally obligated to provide, notwithstanding the requirements of s. 287.022(1).
(p) To enter into and make lease-purchase agreements with the department for terms not exceeding 40 years or until any bonds secured by a pledge of rentals thereunder, and any refundings thereof, are fully paid as to both principal and interest, whichever is longer.
(q) To make contracts of every name and nature, including, but not limited to, partnerships providing for participation in ownership and revenues, and to execute all instruments necessary or convenient for the carrying on of its business.
(r) To do all acts and things necessary or convenient for the conduct of its business and the general welfare of the authority in order to carry out the powers granted to it by this part or any other law.
(6) The authority shall institute procedures to ensure that jobs created as a result of state funding pursuant to this section shall be subject to equal opportunity hiring practices as provided for in s. 110.112.
(7) The authority shall comply with all statutory requirements of general application which relate to the filing of any report or documentation required by law, including the requirements of ss. 189.015, 189.016, 189.051, and 189.08.
(8) The authority does not have power at any time or in any manner to pledge the credit or taxing power of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof, nor shall any of the authority’s obligations be deemed to be obligations of the state or of any political subdivision or agency thereof, nor shall the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof, except the authority, be liable for the payment of the principal of or interest on such obligations.
(9)(a) An action by the authority regarding state funding of commuter rail, heavy rail transit, or light rail transit, as defined in s. 343.91, or any combination thereof, requires approval by a majority vote of each M.P.O. serving the county or counties where such rail transit investment will be made, and the approval by an act of the Legislature.
(b) Subject to the requirements of s. 106.113, the authority may not engage in any advocacy regarding a referendum, ordinance, legislation, or proposal under consideration by any governmental entity or the Legislature which seeks to approve the funding of commuter rail, heavy rail transit, or light rail transit, as defined in s. 343.91, or any combination thereof.
(10) The authority must conduct a feasibility study, through an independent third party, for any project of commuter rail, heavy rail transit, or light rail transit, as defined in s. 343.91, or any combination thereof, before proceeding with the development of the project and before any related contract is issued. The feasibility study shall be submitted, upon completion, to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the boards of county commissioners of Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties.