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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Selmon/I-4 connector a stimulus project that worked

Anyone who’s traveled Adamo Drive and 21st and 22nd streets along Ybor City’s eastern edge can attest to the dangers heavy trucks pose as they head to and from the Port of Tampa. Truck drivers have had no choice but to exit and enter Interstate 4 at Ybor City as they head to the port.

That will end when the mile-long Interstate-4/Selmon Expressway Connector opens to traffic next week. The drivers and businesses who stand to benefit can thank the much-maligned stimulus bill President Obama signed into law during the depths of the great recession.

The bill was justly criticized for failing to produce as many jobs as promised, and for being larded with special interest projects. But there were instances when the money delivered on its promises, and the connector is one of those projects.

About $100 million of the $425 million in construction costs came from the stimulus pool. Without that injection of money, the road would still be little more than a set of plans sitting on shelf.

The road created an estimated 14,000 jobs during its four-year construction, and will prove to be a valuable asset in relieving congestion and wear-and-tear on Ybor City streets that were feeder roads into the port.

No longer should motorists visiting Ybor have to contend with tanker trucks hauling hazardous materials.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor helped deliver the money and says credit should go to the unified effort among the area’s elected officials and transportation groups to make the case for the funding. The project was considered “shovel-ready” and won a place in the massive $800 billion spending plan meant to keep the economy from spiraling into a black hole.

The stimulus plan might have been far more effective if there had been more projects similar to the Connector, which will improve transportation and commerce.

However flawed, the stimulus leaves in its wake a local road that will pay dividends for years to come.

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