Governor DeSantis along with Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin Thibuilt, joined together Monday to announce the development of three transportation projects aimed to improve “efficient, safe, and reliable” travel in Tampa’s interstate system.
According to a press release from Governor DeSantis’ office, the three projects will be enhancements to the Howard Frankland Bridge, the advancement of the Westshore Interchange, and the advancement of the I-275, I-4 Interchange.
The projects are also part of a $2 billion investment within the 2021-2022 budget that focuses on improving “key transportation improvements” for Florida’s highways and seaports.
“The Tampa region is growing exponentially, and it’s important that we support that growth with strong infrastructure,” Governor Ron DeSantis stated. He also mentioned that the three projects are “key” for the Tampa Bay region, and represents a “historically significant investment in the region’s transportation network.”
Citing fewer drivers on the roads due to the pandemic, Simpson said in a statement, “I want to thank the Governor for his leadership and the foresight he had during the early months of the pandemic to realize that with no one on the roads, it was a perfect time to get to work on several critical highway projects.”
He added, “Moving forward on these road projects also kept so many of our essential workers employed during a difficult time. We are seeing the results of that effort today. With additional funds in the budget this year, we are building on that momentum and doing the work necessary to get ahead of the curve in prioritizing Florida’s infrastructure.”
Sprowls, who is from the Tampa Bay area, said, “Accelerating the project is a critical step to address one of the most important Tampa Bay transportation issues in my lifetime … The impact of this announcement cannot be overstated.”
The first project listed in the press release is the Howard Frankland Bridge which is said to be the most important of the three because it is over 60 years old. The release states that FDOT is, “adding enhancements and capacity to the bridge that will modernize the essential connection between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and support the regional economy.”
The Westshore Interchange project is also a top priority of the region and will look to improve efficient travel for the more than 4,000 businesses, 96,000 employees, and the traffic of travelers coming from the Tampa International Airport. As stated in the release, ” The early phases of this project represent over $560 million in direct investment in the local economy, and with the future phases coming online soon, this investment will exceed $1.2 billion.”
Lastly, the project for downtown Tampa’s I-275 and I-4 interchange will represent a $150 million investment to fix what has been called a “chokepoint” and identified by regular travelers of the interchange as “one of the most congested interchanges for freight movement in the country.”
“The Westshore and Downtown Tampa interchange projects will directly enhance mobility in the region, and I am eager to get these projects completed much earlier than previously planned,” FDOT Secretary Thibault said in the release.
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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Marriott Hotel, Tampa Bay Times Forum behind Franklin Street Bridge. Tampa, Florida” by Robert Neff. CC BY 2.0.