TAMPA — As traffic on Interstate 275 slowed to a crawl Monday afternoon, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx pointed to the crowded road and asked people to imagine how bad gridlock would be years from now, with millions more cars on the road.
"This kind of congestion is unacceptable," Foxx told a group of federal, state and local officials. "It's going to get worse if we don't get ahead of it right now."
Foxx was in town to promote the Grow America Act, a $302 billion transportation bill he and the Obama administration have sent to Congress. Without its passage, Foxx said, the U.S. Highway Trust Fund could run out of money as early as August, bringing a halt to new federal roadway spending.
Spending on new roads and highway repairs, Foxx said, should not be a partisan issue.
"There is no Democratic or Republican road in America," he said. "Everyone uses our transportation system, and everyone needs it."
The afternoon news conference was held on a construction site near Dale Mabry Highway, a site that will eventually become new northbound lanes for I-275.
Foxx, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn took a short tour of the site, part of a $216.7 million project to widen 4.2 miles of I-275 from downtown Tampa to just east of State Road 60.
The widening project — which is funded and will not be affected by the Grow America Act — is scheduled to finish in fall 2016.
"Infrastructure is the lifeblood of what makes cities run," Buckhorn said. "We can't compete as a region without investing in projects like this."
Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.