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Tampa is using a new grant to better connect downtown for pedestrians and bicyclists

City officials say the money will be used as part of a $10.7 million project to Harrison Street on the northern end of downtown Tampa to the Hillsborough River.

The City of Tampa is receiving a U.S. Department of Transportation grant of more than $5 million to improve traffic congestion in downtown Tampa, and make a stronger connection between neighborhoods in the area.

City officials say the money will be used as part of a $10.7 million project to Harrison Street on the northern end of downtown Tampa to the Hillsborough River.

But to do that, they'll need to shift the design for the Ashley Drive to I-275 on- and off-ramps to start a few blocks north.

“So if you're coming off the interstate and trying to get to Tampa St., you'll just continue on to Ashley Drive and then turn left at the new intersection and then right under Tampa Street, or access it through one of the many other roads downtown,” said Alex Henry, the Vision Zero Team Lead for the City of Tampa’s Mobility Department. “And if you're trying to get to I-275 from Ashley Drive, you'll continue to do it very similar to how you do today. You'll continue northbound, but the on-ramp onto the interstate won't actually begin until a little bit further north.”

Henry says the change will create easier street connections for bicyclists and pedestrians, while also opening up space in the city's downtown area.

"With new street connections becomes new opportunities for redevelopment, for businesses, for housing, and other purposes,” Henry said. “It'll benefit downtown, and also free up space for opportunities for placemaking and green space and parks."

Henry says if design, public engagement and construction goes smoothly, the project could be complete as soon as 2028, and that the project should not cause much trouble for motorists driving into the area.

Henry said this has been a project in the works for more than a decade when the city was developing its envision plan, which focused on how the future of downtown Tampa would grow.

“That plan really highlighted Ashley Drive as a really critical corridor, and a road that we need to rethink how we can make it easier to traverse through bicycling and walking and other means of transportation,” Henry said. “In particular, it called out the interchange and the off-ramps as pretty big barriers to us achieving that vision.”

Henry said it also highlighted that some streets, such as Harrison Street, were being underutilized.

This project announcement comes right after Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced the Tampa Riverwalk Expansion project, which will add 5 miles to the trail and connect more downtown neighborhoods. That project is supposed to be completed by 2027.

“These new safe routes are really going to go a long way in and stitching together all of the city, and really complementing a lot of the investments that we have west of the [Hillsborough] River as well,” Henry said.

The money stems from a Reconnecting Communities Pilot Grant Program grant, which comes from the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure bill passed by the Biden Administration in 2021. The rest of the money to complete the project will come from a local match.

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