Twenty-four years ago on Dec. 9, Richard Gonzmart was mourning the loss of his father. This year, though, that memory was likely softened with a happier one.
State and city officials came together in Ybor City that day to celebrate the completion of the 21st and 22nd Streets Urban Corridor Modification Project
, as well as the banning of truck traffic on both streets.
"This is a dream that my father had back in the 80s," said Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group
, at the celebration. "He envisioned the day there would be no trucks, and this would be the gateway, the entrance, to this historic, beautiful area."
When Interstate-4 was built in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets became the main routes to the Port of Tampa
. As the port grew, truck traffic in Ybor City increased. So, the Florida Department of Transportation
and the City of Tampa
collaborated to find solutions to the problem.
The first step was to build the Interstate-4/Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Connector to provide a safer, more-efficient route for truck traffic between the Port of Tampa and I-4. The $426 million connector has exclusive truck lanes for direct access to the port.
The second part, which took nearly two years to complete and was celebrated Dec. 9, was the reconstruction of 21st and 22nd streets. It provides pedestrian and bike connectivity on 21st and 22nd streets between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Other major features include wider and scored sidewalks, on-street parking, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, outdoor street furniture, landscaping, iconic five-globe lampposts, a new water main, and repairs to the stormwater and sewer system. The city paid $2.5 million toward the total cost of $9.5 million.
During the Dec. 9 ceremony, an official sign honoring the partnership between FDOT and the City of Tampa, and announcing "no through truck traffic," was unveiled.
"With the completion of this project, trucks are now restricted from traveling through this section, which will allow this area to grow again," Paul Steinman, secretary of FDOT's District 7, said during the ceremony. "This project is an outstanding example of when the federal government, state and local governments work together with our community to find a balance between the growth of the state of Florida and our economy, and how we make our communities a better place to work, live and play."
Gonzmart said the day was a milestone because it represented a rebirth of Ybor City, and the beginning of the realization of his father's vision.
"You're going to see expansion to the east, to the south, to the north, creating job opportunities; for those that live and those that visit here, a place to call home once again like it was back in the early 1900s," he said during the celebration. "Our family has been so excited that we have five projects that will be announced over the next three months, all within 200 yards of what is the Columbia Restaurant because we know, we realize, the commitment the state of Florida, the City of Tampa have made, is going to make Ybor City and make Tampa a better place because of it."