Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn described Wednesday, Feb. 27, as an exciting day that has been a long time coming for New Tampa.
It was the day that Tampa officials, New Tampa Chamber of Commerce members and others celebrated the opening of the New Tampa Boulevard Bridge with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
“Let’s cut this ribbon, let’s open this road up,” Buckhorn said. “And within a couple weeks, Bruce B. Downs will be finished, and it will be happy days.”
The 0.7-mile New Tampa Boulevard Bridge spans over Interstate 75 and connects Commerce Park Boulevard in Tampa Palms with New Tampa Boulevard in West Meadows. When combined with the widening along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, it gives the residents of New Tampa the traffic relief they deserve, Buckhorn said.
Not only does the bridge make traveling through New Tampa quicker for motorists, it also provides safety for non-motorists, Buckhorn said. The bridge includes a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side and an 8-foot wide multi-use trail on the north side, which allows pedestrians and bicyclists to cross I-75 without using Bruce B. Downs.
“It is also an easterly/westerly connection between Bearss Avenue and SR 56, and will improve emergency access for the area,” said Ali Glisson, the City of Tampa’s public affairs director.
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Regina Ramalheira, president of the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said she has lived in New Tampa since 1991, and has watched the quality of life in the area improve over the past 20 years. She said the bridge provides “an opportunity of moving people to and from places in New Tampa easier than they could before.”
Construction on the $12.8 million project began in May 2011 and finished earlier than its anticipated completion date in May 2013.
Bill Edwards, president of the Tampa Palms Owners Association, said that planners in the 1980s never believed that New Tampa could develop into such a thriving and successful community. They greatly underestimated how much traffic would use the area’s roads.
He recalled a time when he could get from Tampa Palms to the Tampa International Airport in morning rush hour in little more than a half hour.
“How things have changed,” he said.
He talked about how the bridge will help families, business owners and emergency personnel travel through New Tampa quickly and safely, and he pointed out that the bridge will be used during a 5K run in three weeks to raise money for Chiles Elementary.
“The bridge will serve us daily,” he said. “A great neighborhood asset.”
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