Smart move with West Shore. Tampa Bay caught a big break this week when state officials advanced the start date on the region’s top-priority transportation project. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state is dedicating some of the $2 billion it budgeted for infrastructure toward the West Shore Interchange. The original start date for the project was 2024, but it had tentatively been pushed back to 2026 because of COVID-related state budget concerns. But on Monday, officials said the work would begin in 2023, which means construction will be underway before upgrades to the Howard Frankland Bridge are completed in about four years. “We didn’t want to just have the bridge project end and have nothing at the end to accept the traffic,” said David Gwynn, regional secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation. This is a victory for good planning, common sense and regional advocacy. The interchange serves as the primary connection point for residents of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, linking the bridge, Interstate 275, State Road 60 and the Veterans Expressway. It’s also one of the area’s worst bottlenecks, connecting the area’s downtowns, beaches, ports, airports and suburbs. Some 150,000 vehicles move through the interchange each day. By moving up construction, the state is preventing an old problem from getting worse, and maximizing its investment into the bridge’s new span. The governor also announced an accelerated timeline for work on the downtown Tampa interchange, where Interstate 275 and Interstate 4 connect. That should improve traffic flow at a key choke point and help reduce the number of auto accidents there. All in all, a good week for Tampa’s interstates, and when’s the last time you said that?
Diamond in the rough. Speaking of roads, local officials announced the hiring of a new contractor for the so-called “diverging diamond” interchange at Interstate 75 and State Road 56. The project is one of seven abandoned when the previous contractor, D.A.B. Constructors, defaulted earlier this summer. The resumption of construction is welcome news; regional officials had hoped the project would have been completed before the start of this winter’s tourist season. But at least the project is moving forward, and it promises to serve as a key connection in a fast-growing area.
Thanks. Now cough up. The Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council approved a request this week to honor the onetime site of College Hill Cemetery, one of several cemeteries across the region that were lost to history but rediscovered in recent years after investigations by the Tampa Bay Times. Beginning in 1889, College Hill Cemetery was marked on maps and in other public records. But sometime after 1941, as the Times’ Paul Guzzo reported, the cemetery with burial sections for Tampa’s Cuban and Black residents was erased and replaced by a parking lot. The more than 1,200 people buried there are missing. The council granted a request by Angela Alderman, whose uncle is among those buried in College Hill, to place a historic marker outside the lot. Alderman took the initiative to ensure the buried “get the dignity restored that they deserve,” she said. But there’s a catch: The county will cover half the marker’s $2,565 cost but Alderman must raise the rest. It’s incredible the government would go out of its way to sour this show of respect. Alderman has considered using her Christmas bonus to pay her half. If the county won’t waive the fee, the city of Tampa, which is complicit in this saga, should offer to pay. Alderman, who did all the work to make this happen, has done enough.
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