For more than four years now, President Obama and I have said repeatedly that investing in transportation helps spur economic growth. And in speeches and on this blog, I have talked about project after project doing just that in communities across America. DOT's infrastructure investments create jobs and generate economic activity. They do.
One city that has seen the evidence of this ripple effect firsthand is Tampa, Florida. Last year, I blogged about the I-4 / Selmon Expressway, a project that has created 14,000 jobs and which, when completed next spring, will allow trucks to drive from the Port of Tampa all the way to Maine, Illinois, or California without hitting a single traffic light. A project that will take truck traffic off the local roads in Ybor City and allow the Port of Tampa to compete for the increased cargo volume coming through the expanded Panama Canal.
And in 2011, I wrote about the TECO Streetcar Line that links downtown Tampa to residential areas, restaurants, hotels and entertainment. A project that connects tourists and residents to the downtown area to enjoy festivals, conventions, and all of the great culture the city of Tampa offers. A project that generated more than $1 billion in economic investment--before it even opened.
Today, I'm writing about another exciting project that kicked off yesterday in Tampa, the Kennedy segment of the Tampa Riverwalk. The Riverwalk will provide greater access to Tampa’s downtown area businesses -- while improving safety and accessibility-- for pedestrians and bicyclists.
As Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said at yesterday's construction launch in Tampa, "The Riverwalk is a classic example of what our TIGER grant program is all about. Our investment is going to help a creative local idea become reality – bringing with it jobs and economic growth, and making Tampa a better place to live and visit."
Once this final piece of the Riverwalk is complete, bicycling and walking will be safe, and viable options for people to move along the waterfront, eat, shop or just have fun will be plentiful. That’s what good transportation is all about: giving people safe choices, helping the economy grow, and making a community more livable.
As Mayor Buckhorn said yesterday, "This is a game changer. This is when we open up the Hillsborough River the way we should have 40 years ago."
Administrator Mendez put it well yesterday: “As we look to future economic growth for downtown areas, DOT will continue to work with communities to see what other opportunities there may be."
That's it in a nutshell: from Tampa to Tacoma, transportation is opportunity.