Gov. Charlie Crist applauded House passage of the $825 billion economic stimulus package Thursday after a whirlwind tour of Tampa's port, a potential beneficiary of the federal money.
"We got some good news last night from the federal government," Crist said. "From a Florida perspective, that could help us with our infrastructure, our education, so many things that are important to the Sunshine State, right now especially."
Port officials showed Crist a barge unloading ethanol at a fuel terminal, its growing container cargo operations and the shipyard recently acquired by a Louisiana shipbuilder. They also pitched a couple of pet projects for the stimulus money.
The Interstate 4 Crosstown Connector would route thousands of trucks driving to and from the port each day around Ybor City by linking I-4 to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.
Florida Department of Transportation officials were set to award the construction contract this year. But state budget cuts forced them to push the schedule back four years. A shot of federal money would get the project back on track for completion in 2015, port officials say.
"The value of being able to have all these trucks not have to go through Ybor City … and be able to get on the major artery of I-4 makes great common sense," Crist said.
Port officials' other priority is the rebuilding of the port's main petroleum terminal, where tankers and barges unload fuel into huge storage tanks and a pipeline that carries jet fuel as far as Orlando International Airport.
The terminal handles 37 percent of all petroleum imports for west-central Florida, officials say. The 45-year-old facility needs a new pier, wharfs, pipes and connections at a cost of $36 million.