TAMPA, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference Monday afternoon to announce three major road projects in the Tampa Bay area.
The three projects Governor DeSantis announced are enhancements to the Howard Frankland Bridge, the advancement of the Westshore Interchange, and the advancement of the I-275, I-4 Interchange. These projects are all part of Tampa Bay Next.
“The Tampa region is growing exponentially, and it’s important that we support that growth with strong infrastructure,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Today, I was proud to be joined by Speaker Sprowls, President Simpson and Secretary Thibault to announce three key projects for the Tampa Bay region, which represent a historically significant investment in the region’s transportation network.”
These projects are part of a $2 billion investment in the 2021-2022 budget to make transportation improvements in Florida highways and seaports.
DeSantis said these projects are all part of a larger effort to modernize Tampa's interstate system.
“The project advancements announced today are critical to enhancing safety and connectivity within the Tampa region and across Florida’s overall transportation system,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault, P.E. “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.”
The downtown Tampa interchange project will now be ready years before anticipated, officials said.
Some neighbors in nearby communities shared with ABC Action News their concerns with some of the projects, ranging from the community impact to safety and economic growth.
"When these people are saying there’s this gigantic economic benefit to be had from building out this particular piece of infrastructure, the empirical evidence strongly suggests that’s not the case. Urban interstates, so far as we can tell looking at the economic data going back over decades, contribute nothing to economic growth," said Doug Jesseph, a chair on the Highways and Byways committee with the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. "Putting interstates through cities creates these gigantic dead zones, drives property values down."
Mauricio Rosas, a chair on the Highways and Byways committee with the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association, pointed out concerns in not building up other transportation options, like buses.
“Everything that FDOT is doing right now does not reduce the carbon footprint, it does not reduce the number of cars, and when we talk about safety, by adding more cars to a road, that does not create safety," said Rosas. "We need to reduce the number of cars on the roads in order to create safety.”
Some neighbors continue to hope for other solutions for the ever-growing community.
“We have to focus on people first, mobility choices, and it’s got to be a prioritization on transit ahead of highway building," said Michelle Cookson with Sunshine Citizens.
ABC Action News reached out to the Governor's Office in regards to neighbors' concerns.
Below is more information on each of the road projects in the area:
Howard Frankland Bridge
One of the region’s most important transportation projects is the Howard Frankland Bridge. The bridge was first built in 1959 and is now more than 60 years old. 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.
Tampa’s Westshore Interchange is one of the region’s top transportation priorities. The modernization of the Westshore Interchange will transform the area and allow efficient, safe and reliable travel for the more than 4,000 businesses, 96,000 employees and countless visitors who come from the Tampa International Airport to watch the world champion Bucs and Lightning play. 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.
Downtown Tampa I-275, I-4 Interchange
FDOT will be advancing the downtown Tampa Interchange between I-275 and I-4, representing an investment of more than $150 million into the local economy. Currently, drivers that use the Downtown Tampa Interchange experience significant backups regularly. The interchange is a key chokepoint that has been identified as one of the most congested interchanges for freight movement in the country. FDOT’s improvements to the interchange will address the chokepoint and work to alleviate congestion.