Tampa Bay area transportation officials will be holding a final public meeting this week to give residents the chance to weigh in on proposed light rail plans that hinge on voters agreeing to higher taxes in Hillsborough County this fall.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, known as HART, will be holding a public meeting in Hillsborough County Commission chambers in downtown Tampa from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thurs., Sept. 30, to obtain input from the community.

That input could be heated as the debate over a proposed penny sales tax increase has ramped up in recent weeks with advocates and opponents holding meetings with the public to make their cases.

If approved, the bulk of the revenue from a penny sales tax increase would go toward the construction of light rail, with portions also going to road improvements and increased bus service.

The debate over the light rail in the region has brought numerous Tampa political and business heavyweights to campaign in an effort to convince the public in a down economy to support a new tax.

Approval from voters on Nov. 2 for the sale tax increase may also be critical to the success of a federal and state-funded high-speed rail stop in downtown Tampa. Work has already begun on the nation’s first high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, but many have raised concerns about it succeeding in Tampa without light rail connections.

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