TAMPA, Fla. -
A big celebration in Tampa on Saturday for something that's been years in the making. A new roadway connecting I-4 and the Selmon Expressway.
First there was a ribbon cutting to open the new phase of travel in Tampa Bay. Before cars navigate through the new elevated roadway above the city, over a thousand runners were the first to cross the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector.
It's a place pedestrian's won't be allowed on after today. "It was a cool perspective. All the workers were out there waving at us, cars were honking. It was really cool," runner Dawn Peters said.
She and her friend Janae Pranschke ran to see the connector from a whole different perspective, on their feet instead of a car. "They described it as like a spaghetti model and it real is. You can see like all the highways intertwining and reaching around the city. It was cool," Janae said.
The $425 million project which began back in March of 2010 will be a vital link between I-4 and the Selmon Expressway. Experts hope it will ease traffic around Ybor City as well. "This will give a direct connection between those two facilities which will increase mobility around the whole region," Florida Department of Transportation Spokesperson John McShaffrey said.
There are also ramps for trucks only leading directly into the port of Tampa. But today, the ramp for the first and only time was traveled across by tennis shoes rather than tires.
"Once in a lifetime, it's really cool. You can't ever do this again, ever," Janae said.
"50 years from now we'll look back and say we were on that bridge, so it was good," runner Bob Rose said.
In the end Chris Hough from St. Petersburg was the first to cross the finish line. "Anytime I make the trip over this way, if I'm heading to Brandon or heading back downtown Tampa I can always think back and know that there was a race over this bridge and I was the first and only winner," he said.
The real winners though were the local charities benefiting from today's run.
Even though there will be some painting and landscaping done for the next several months, FDOT hopes to have the connector open to traffic by the end of next week, January 3rd.