TAMPA — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx toured the reconstruction of Interstate 275 between Lois Avenue and Dale Mabry Highway with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor.
The $1.7 billion project includes $940 million in federal funding. Fox noted that the reconstruction was 25 years in the making. Work began in 2012 and is scheduled to end in 2016.
“The fact of the matter is, were this project still on the cutting room floor today, were it still on the board, on the map, it might be further delayed or perhaps stopped altogether,” Foxx said Monday as he stood with other dignitaries on a concrete span of the new roadway.
The federal Highway Trust Fund, backed by a federal tax on gasoline, is close to drying up because Americans are using less gasoline thanks to more efficient cars and a recession-related drop in driving.
The Obama administration has proposed a $302 billion legislative package that would fund road and transit projects over the next four years. It needs congressional approval. The current trust fund expires in July or August.
Buckhorn embraced Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., when the two men met on the construction site.
“There’s nobody better than a mayor to recognize the importance of the investment in projects like this,” Buckhorn said during the news conference.
All of Tampa’s biggest transportation hubs – from Tampa International Airport to Port Tampa Bay to the new I-4 Connector – rely on federal DOT support, Buckhorn said.
“Investment in infrastructure is the lifeblood of making cities run,” he said.
Foxx said the legislation includes provisions designed to speed project through the permitting process.
“We think we can do it without compromising the integrity of projects or the integrity of the environment,” Foxx said.
As Fox talked, traffic roared past on the highway’s old lanes.
“There isn’t a Democratic or Republican road in America,” Foxx said. “Everybody uses our transportation system, and everybody needs it.”