Today, USDOT Under Secretary for Transportation Policy Carlos Monje joined Mayor Jane Castor, FDOT District 7 Secretary David Gwynn, Rep. Kathy Castor, and community members in celebrating the City of Tampa's award of more than five million dollars in federal funding through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Grant Program. This funding is a landmark step in delivering on Mayor Jane Castor's Transforming Tampa’s Tomorrow goals to reconnect the city, improve how people get around safely and easily, and unlock more of downtown for housing and reinvestment.
The grant, Uniting Neighborhoods & Infrastructure for Transportation Equity (UNITE), awards the city a total of $5,354,695.00. The project will lower the Ashley Drive Interchange Ramp to street level by removing the viaduct that raises up the extended highway exit ramp. The project will then reconnect the North Downtown street grid with a new street-level Ashley Drive, making it safer and easier to walk and bike around downtown Tampa.
The existing Ashley Drive on-ramp cuts off the historic street grid, not only making it more difficult for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate the area, but also isolating historic neighborhoods from downtown and creating an economic development dead zone.
"These roadway changes along Ashley Drive will simplify traffic and reduce lane changing and speeding, improving conditions for walking and biking, as well as easing drivers from I-275 into Downtown Tampa," Mayor Jane Castor said. "With the help of this federal grant, we can make sure that our residents have better access to the resources they need in Downtown Tampa, such as job opportunities, healthcare facilities, supermarkets, schools, affordable housing, and recreational areas."
This federal grant project will also:
- Add new bicycle and pedestrian routes
- Create new street connections at Royal Street and Harrison Street, reducing barriers to walk/bike connectivity and access in north downtown
- Establish a project Community Advisory Committee
- Create new opportunities for green infrastructure and parks accessing the riverfront, and community-based place-making along Ashley Drive
- Allow for potential future connection to Laurel Street
Additionally, this grant will support development opportunities for mixed and affordable housing, along with ground-floor retail.
In partnership with the Downtown CRA, The City of Tampa is finalizing a contract to purchase a key parcel standing in the way of full ownership of all the property between Harrison and Laurel Streets. In total, the City of Tampa is targeting four acres of underutilized land valued at $5.6M adjacent to the redesign project area with plans to invite proposals generating several hundred units of mixed-income and mixed-use development.
While in Tampa, USDOT Under Secretary Monje and the City of Tampa Mobility Department also toured locations where another grant, the Safe Streets for All Federal Grant, will fund transportation safety projects like the Main Street Quick Build Project in West Tampa.
"Thanks to the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we are reconnecting neighborhoods and creating safer streets across the Tampa Bay area,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL-14). “I am thrilled that one of the first Reconnecting Communities grants is coming to the City of Tampa to fix the historic mistake that cut off neighbors and small businesses in Tampa Heights from Downtown. The Ashley ramp mistake is more noticeable now with the development of the Tampa Riverwalk, Armature Works, and reinvestment in the Tampa Heights neighborhood. Pedestrians and cyclists will have safer access to workplaces, grocery stores, recreation, and housing in North Downtown. This early Reconnecting Communities grant comes on the heels of major Infrastructure law investments for the Tampa Bay area including for Safer Streets ($40M), Superfund cleanup ($5M), Port Tampa Bay ($12.6M), Brownfields Job Training ($500K), HART Cross Bay Ferry ($4.8M), and more. We are just getting started improving Tampa Bay’s infrastructure, creating jobs, and boosting our competitiveness – and I am grateful that Mayor Castor and her team and other local partners continue to be forward-thinking and strategic for our neighbors.”
The entire project is expected to cost roughly $10.71 million dollars.