In Ybor, I-4 Crosstown Connector breaks ground

04/09/10 Seán Kinane
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Although construction has already begun, the official groundbreaking ceremony was held this morning for the highway to connect I-4 with the Port of Tampa and the Selmon Crosstown Expressway. Gov. Charlie Crist said the project, funded with $105 million dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will mean more jobs for the region.

The most important thing about it is the job creation opportunity that it brings to Florida—and right here to Tampa Bay. I mean, this is home. And so it’s pretty sweet to be able to celebrate something like this. It’ll employ, directly, about 350 people. But indirectly—and this is really important—over ten thousand people will have jobs as a result of what’s happening here today. That’s incredibly important, especially now.

Crist has taken flak from the right for supporting funds for Florida projects from the federal stimulus package. Crist’s main rival for the Republican nomination to U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, has criticized the governor for appearing onstage with President Barack Obama when he was in Fort Myers stumping for the Recovery Act. Today, Crist continued to emphasize how projects funded by the federal stimulus help the state.

These guys in the hard hats, and their families, benefit from these kinds of projects. It is getting people the opportunity to be able to earn a living, to get back to work, to get the economy going again. That’s really what this is all about. Now, it also helps our transportation, and it gets rid of a lot of congestion for our fellow Floridians. I mean, you know, those of us from Tampa Bay, we know what “Malfunction Junction” is all about, and all these road projects that we go through—Steve, and your family drive all the time, and so do mine. And so, being able to create jobs, to relieve congestion, to fight for the people, to give them an opportunity to have gainful employment, and to honor a great man named Lee Roy Selmon—it doesn’t get much better than that.

The expressway is named after Lee Roy Selmon, the NFL Hall of Famer who played defensive line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Currently, there is no direct link between the Port of Tampa, the Selmon Expressway, and Interstate-4. Tampa Port Authority director Richard Wainio says after the connector is finished, many trucks will be able to avoid surface roads through Ybor City.

Each and every day on average, over eleven thousand trucks move in and out of our port. And that number is increasing, and forecast to increase significantly in the years ahead. Most of those trucks currently access the Interstate system via crowded roads in the heart of historic Ybor City, or state road 60. The Crosstown Connector will provide an elevated connection between the I-4—and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Connector, with a dedicated truck lane, directly from the center of the port, that will allow trucks to access the Interstate system efficiently and quickly, without traversing narrow, crowded streets and county roads.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor says there will be a positive “ripple effect” for jobs over the long term.

That’s why I appreciate Governor Crist’s leadership. He understands the importance of building new jobs, creating new jobs, in Tampa Bay and throughout the state of Florida. And it hasn’t been easy. But this is the intent of the Recovery Act: to give our economy this boost, but also to lay a foundation for long-term economic investment. So when we’re able to expand the Port of Tampa, when the Panama Canal expands, that means greater jobs in the long term. These construction jobs in the short term are vital: The ripple effect that will create thousands and thousands of jobs in our community, is very important.

Connector info from FDOT

Tampa Port Authority

Lee Roy Selmon NFL Hall of Fame

More WMNF coverage of the I-4 Connector:

Recovery Act funds provide stimulus to Port of Tampa

Stimulus funding wish list: More buses and an I-4 connector

Tampa City Councilman bothered by I-4 connector project delay

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