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Good news from around Tampa Bay this week
Targeting London, litter and USF football, and the Skyway net saving lives
Virgin Atlantic will start flying from Tampa to London's Heathrow airport in November.
Virgin Atlantic will start flying from Tampa to London's Heathrow airport in November. [ FRANK AUGSTEIN | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jul. 9

London calling. Tampa Bay’s connection to the global business world took a big leap this week as Virgin Atlantic announced it was launching year-round direct flights between Tampa International Airport and London’s Heathrow airport. The new service will start flying four times a week Nov. 3 but expand to daily service by Nov. 28. This marks another way to visit one of the world’s greatest cities; British Airways already flies to London’s Gatwick Airport from Tampa. But Virgin’s flights to Heathrow, London’s busiest airport, offer a new opportunity for leisure and business travelers alike. More than 100 U.K. businesses are based in the Tampa Bay area, and as TIA’s chief executive, Joe Lopano, noted: “There’s a huge upside for our thriving business community to now have a direct connection to the world’s premier business airport.” That means faster and more convenient flight connections, not only throughout Europe, but to Africa and Asia. And it means new visitors to the area’s beaches and downtowns, which is how metropolitan regions grow. This is another reminder of the airport’s importance to the future of Tampa Bay.

Clean up Tampa. Sometimes it’s the small things that define a city. That’s why it’s encouraging that Tampa is organizing a clean-up today to remove litter from the city’s waterways, neighborhoods and parks. The effort, called “Keep It Clean, Tampa!,” will included a recently procured boat that will work the Hillsborough River and the waters off Davis Islands and Bayshore Boulevard. The city, the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful organization and neighborhood leaders are also gathering hundreds of volunteers for a trash clean-up. Volunteers are encouraged to clean up their own neighborhoods or pitch in at one of four designated parks today: Cheney Park at 801 E Yukon St., Borrell Park at 808 E 26th Ave., Gadsden Park at 6901 S MacDill Ave. and Grant Park at 3724 N 54th St. Those interested can find all the details here: Tampa.gov/KeepitClean. Even those with their own kayaks can volunteer. This is a great outreach program that will beautify Tampa and build civic spirit. And those unable to attend can do their part by not littering. Find a garbage can. Or take it home.

USF’s football stadium. The University of South Florida took another step this week toward building an on-campus football stadium. Officials on Wednesday explained the bidding process to a standing-only crowd of architecture and construction firms; the plan is to award the project in August, the next major juncture in building a 35,000-seat stadium on the Tampa campus. Athletic director Michael Kelly said this stadium would be one of the few in college football built this century, and that the design should reflect the times. Though Wednesday’s meeting revealed little new information, it moved this nine-figure project closer to reality. The stadium will likely require a year or two of design, then a year or two of construction, and the university envisions opening the stadium for the 2026 season. Let’s hope USF gets it right, with a design that ages well and with an inclusive contracting process that will give local and minority-owned businesses a chance to compete. This should be an exercise in community building as much as building Bulls football. Let’s keep the university on a roll.

Skyway’s helpful fencing. The fencing on the Sunshine Skyway is working. Two deaths are the only confirmed suicides from the bridge in the last 12 months, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Before the barrier was built, with construction completed in 2021, about one person a month died by jumping from the bridge. In 2018, 18 died — a record, as the Times’ Tony Marrero reported this week. The barrier — stainless steel netting rising above the existing wall, creating a barrier nearly 11 feet high — extends across a roughly mile-and-a-half stretch of the bridge at its highest points. The idea is to buy time by making it harder for people to act on impulse, and by creating an extra few precious moments for first responders to arrive. Aside from the reduction in deaths, the Highway Patrol has logged eight calls involving someone who was intercepted before they could jump. Compare that to the the average of 11 such calls each year between 2016 and 2021. Critics said the fencing would be an ugly waste of money that wouldn’t achieve its purpose. They were wrong on all counts. And more people are alive as a result of this common-sense precaution.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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