TAMPA — As he ran for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would develop a financing plan to complete the unfinished segments of Tampa's 2.6-mile-long Riverwalk during his first year in office.
When PolitiFact Florida asked about the plan in an interview on Feb. 28, Buckhorn joked, "that's called begging."
Turns out there was a bit more to it than that.
Tampa officials learned from members of Florida's congressional delegation Tuesday that the city would receive a $10.9 million federal TIGER grant to build two remaining sections of the Riverwalk. The news came almost six months to the day after federal officials denied the city's previous application for a TIGER grant.
On March 16, about two weeks before Buckhorn's first anniversary as mayor, Tampa put in a revised application for the next round of TIGER grants.
This time, Tampa officials included another government agency and other modes of transportation — traits the TIGER program is designed to support. The city teamed up with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority to connect the Riverwalk to a proposed 1.7-mile multiuse trail along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Together, the projects will create pedestrian and cycling connections to public bus lines and the TECO Line streetcar. Moreover, the city and expressway authority pledged a total of $4.7 million in local matching funds.
The city and its allies also took pains to make Tampa's case in person. Buckhorn met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood twice and spoke to the White House about the application. The city's lobbying firm, Holland & Knight, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, provided support for the effort.
Finally, the timing was good. President Barack Obama is running for re-election, and Tampa is the biggest city in a critical region of a key swing state.
As a candidate, Buckhorn promised that during his first year in office he would come up with a financing plan to finish the Riverwalk. As mayor, he lobbied, fine-tuned the project's details and took advantage of good political timing to secure the grant. The payoff came after his first year was complete, but the work began before. We rate this Promise Kept.