Tampa has won a $24 million federal grant to extend the West Riverwalk to the north and build “12 miles of contiguous multimodal paths” connecting the city’s urban neighborhoods.
The 12.2-mile path will be a car-free transit mode and connect three neighborhoods on the west side of the Hillsborough River to downtown Tampa, the city said Thursday. It will also “provide safe mobility options for pedestrians and bicyclists to commute to the University of Tampa, West Tampa, Ybor City, Tampa Heights and the downtown Tampa region.”
The grant, awarded via the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development program, is a major milestone for Mayor Jane Castor’s administration. While Tampa’s downtown and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods have thrived in recent years, attracting new development and investors, critics claim that neighborhoods outside of the urban core have been left behind.
“This is a transformative project for the city of Tampa that will lead to significant investments in West Tampa and the West River,” Castor said in a statement. “Not only will the continuation of the Riverwalk on the West side of the river provide safe multimodal transportation choices for pedestrians and commuting cyclists, but it will create a world-class destination for the surrounding new and existing neighborhoods.”
Greenways for pedestrians and cyclists to travel between neighborhoods have been a major priority for the mayor.
“Look at the Riverwalk,” the mayor told the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2019, shortly after taking office. “It has just exploded down there, beyond anyone’s prediction or imagination. So we need to build upon that. Let’s put greenways in other parts of the urban core so we can connect and encourage people to get out and walk and exercise more.”
The Riverwalk, which investors and developers say has been a major catalyst for downtown’s development boom, also benefitted from a major federal grant. In 2012, the city won an $11 million federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant to complete the Riverwalk.
“I rigorously championed the city of Tampa’s vision due to the transformational improvements that previous grants have provided for our hometown and the related jobs,” U.S. Rep Kathy Castor said in a statement.
Sen. Marco Rubio said the $24 million grant for the city was “great news.”
“This funding will help to significantly improve and modernize the city’s transportation infrastructure,” Rubio said.
Walkability and pedestrian safety are major impediments to Tampa’s urban growth. Even Bayshore Boulevard, the longest contiguous sidewalk in the U.S., is plagued by speeding drivers and pedestrian fatalities, leading the city consider a road diet for the thoroughfare.
Source: Ashley Gurbal KritzerSenior Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal