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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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Transportation : Development News

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South Tampa Boutique Hotel Opens To Guests

The long-awaited opening of the food-themed Epicurean Hotel on South Howard Avenue officially is two days after Christmas. But General Manager Tom Haines anticipates a "soft" opening with at least some rooms occupied by guests a few days sooner.
 
And gift cards are available for hotel stays, dining at the Élevage restaurant, hand-crafted cocktails at the roof-top bar EDGE, sweets at Chocolate Pi patisserie or culinary classes at the Epicurean Theatre.
 
"The response has been overwhelming," says Haines. "It seems to resonate with people."
 
The 137-room boutique hotel is in the Hyde Park historic district, across from landmark Bern's Steak House, founded more than 50 years ago by Gert and the late Bern Laxer. Their son, David Laxer, and Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are partners in the hotel project. Marriott Hotel International, Inc., will add the Epicurean to its Autograph Collection, a select group of hotels that are operated without the Marriott name but offers guests the perks that come with the Marriott brand.
 
Among unique features at the hotel are bicycles for touring Hyde Park and Bayshore Boulevard and evening wine samplings.

The hotel also will have Chocolate Pi, a French-style patisserie, Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits, and 5,200 square-foot flexible event room suitable for weddings, honeymoons, bar and bat mitzvahs.

In February a full-service luxury spa, Evangeline, will open.
 
The hotel is taking an innovative path and tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement with culinary classes for beginners and experienced cooks. World-known chefs and sommeliers will visit the state-of-the-art Epicurean Theatre for cooking demonstrations, wine exhibitions and special events.

And the hotel will participate in the annual Bern's WineFest.

"There are so many foodies out there," Haines says. "They are hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. The theater cements that for people."

The first culinary classes will begin Jan. 20 with Mastering Wine Aromas. Other early topics are History of the Cocktail and tea blending. Haines says classes will be held "about every day of the week."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tom Haines, Epicurean Hotel

Construction Begins On New Transit Center In Pinellas Park

Bus riders will have an easier time of figuring out schedules and making connections when the new Pinellas Park Transit
Center opens in the summer of 2014.

CHTR Development, LLC, is in charge of construction after winning the contract with a low bid of $359,000. The new facility will replace the current transit center at 70th Avenue North behind the Shoppes at Park Place.

It will be manned with transit employees who can sell tickets and provide information at a customer service window. There also will be restrooms and water fountains for the hundreds of riders who get on and off the buses. It will be the first time central Pinellas has had such a fully equipped center, says Bob Lasher, spokesman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The new transit center is an effort to modernize bus service and increase ridership.

In November 2014 voters will have a chance to vote on a referendum for a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 30-year plan to improve transit service and potentially have light rail service connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bob Lasher, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

Urban Land Institute Visit Examines Pasco County's Growth

Pasco County should redouble efforts to encourage development along north-south U.S. Highway 19 in West Pasco and abandon the idea of building an elevated tollway along the east-west State Road 54/56 corridor, according to preliminary recommendations by a panel of urban experts visiting under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute. 

ULI experts were in Pasco from Oct 7 to Oct 11. The panel was invited by the County to help evaluate its planning efforts since 2008, ULI's last visit.

Much of the ULI panel's visit to Pasco, the county immediately north of more urban Pinellas (Clearwater-St. Pete) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties was dedicated to private interviews and discussions with the local community, business leaders, county staff and other stakeholders.

The ULI Panel acknowledged that the County has made significant strides since 2008 with the adoption of the Market Areas, Urban Services Areas, the County's Strategic Plan and other improvements. Although the ULI Panel applauded the County's recent planning efforts, it also cautioned Pasco County on several aspects of development.

"Pasco County has approved over 300,000 units for construction, adequate to meet the supply for next 75 years,'' says ULI Panelist Dan Conway. Because approved growth far exceeds market demand, the County should guide new development into designated Urban Service Areas on highways 19 and 54.

Redevelopment efforts along the U.S. 19 corridor should focus on creating Business Improvement Districts, providing redevelopment incentives and seek public-private partnerships to establish a "Corridor Lifestyle'' characterized by high-density mixed-use development within walkable distances from transit stops.

Panelist April Anderson Lamoureux recommends growing the health care sector and small business expansion. The County also should "embrace Eco-Tourism as one of its key development opportunity,'' adds Anderson-Lamoureux.

The ULI Panel recommended against plans to build an elevated tollway on the State Roads 54/56 corridor, connecting U.S. 19 to East Pasco.

"All around the Country there are at least 12 efforts to take down elevated highway structures since the community said they don't want them,'' says Pat Hawley, one of the ULI Panelists, referring to notable projects in cities that are turning highways into vibrant parks.

"You might have the potential to build the tollway but it would in fact impede the County's efforts of creating place making,'' concludes Hawley.

ULI Panelist Dan Slone suggested the County look at the "Highways to Boulevards'' initiative by the Congress for New Urbanism.
 
Lastly, the Panel asked Pasco County to embrace its diversity and cautioned against applying the same design standards throughout the county. The Panel is expected to give a full report within the next 90 days.
 
"ULI's recommendations validate our efforts to make Pasco a premier county,'' says John Hagen, President of Pasco Economic Development Council.
"The Panel may have just pointed us to the true North. I think we need to re-examine the elevated tollway.''

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Urban Land Institute, is a nonprofit global education and research institute, which provides Advisory Services to communities for solving planning and policy issues.

The panel included economic development, real estate and urban planning experts, both from public and private sectors. On the final day of their visit, panel members presented their initial findings and recommendations at the West Pasco Government Center to a large gathering of nearly 100 people.
   
Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

Love Your City? Participate In Local Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Urbanists from all over the Tampa Bay region are invited to participate in a Tactical Urbanism Movement workshop on Wednesday, October 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Beck Group, 220 West 7th Avenue, in Tampa.

Tactical Urbanism is a rapidly growing international movement of small-scale, temporary, low-cost, high-reward actions that lead to an immediate improvement in a community's public life, often followed by long-term urban interventions. Guerilla Gardening, Pavement-to-Parks or Reclaiming a Parking Space are some of the examples of Tactical Urbanism that are currently being applied by citizens in many U.S. cities.
 
The local Tactical Urbanism Workshop is coordinated by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Congress for New Urbanism-Tampa Bay. Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer and an advocate for livable cities, will lead the workshop.

"It will be exciting to be a part of this urban place-making movement that is currently sweeping our country's major cities,'' says Lauren Matzke, a Clearwater City Planner and the workshop's main coordinator.

As a part of the workshop, participants will get hands-on experience in planning and intervening on an actual site in Downtown Tampa. Apart from promising a fun planning experience, the workshop also intends to train the participants on how to plan, fund and carry out these projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

The event is expected to draw a variety of participants such as engaged citizens, stakeholders, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, local leaders, government officials and other advocates who are passionate about their city and urban experiences. You can RSVP here.

Tactical Urbanism was named as one of the top trends in 2012 by the urban planning website Planetizen. Implementation of this movement in the Tampa Bay region is expected to inspire innovative planning ideas, urban interventions and collaborations.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Lauren Matzke, City of Clearwater

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

The cities of Gulfport and Madeira Beach in Pinellas County will soon realize significant improvements for recreational boating and their waterfronts following the award of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG).
 
Both cities, on a project cost basis, received BIG Tier-1 fund totaling $380,750 and $822,066 respectively. The total amount awarded includes the BIG grant and a proportionate amount as non-federal funding.

Gavin Shire, a Public Affairs Specialist with USFWS in Arlington, VA, says the "Tier-1 is a smaller and a noncompetitive program awarded to each applying State, while, Tier-2 is a nationally competitive funding program meant for large-scale projects.''

Funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the BIG grant gets its revenue from excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, yachts and gasoline.

Gulfport is using the Grant to construct an ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) floating dock made from composite decking and designed for eight boats.

"Construction is expected to start by January 2014,'' says Denis Frain, Gulfport's Director of Marina Operations. Any unspent funds from the grant will be returned to USFWS after July 2015. According to Frain, "The funded dock will be free of charge and open to the public for use.''

Madeira Beach plans to upgrade its waterfront facilities for vessels, with an increase in 14 slips and four moorings, and other amenities such as pump-out stations and a fuel dock.

Apart from investing in boating infrastructure facilities, both cities may use the funds for production and distribution of educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
 
By creating diverse recreational opportunities, new jobs and a multitude of small businesses, BIG grants can have a significant impact on the local economy.

The BIG grant is crucial to Gulfport, as "it will not only improve boating facilities, but also help the City in its Downtown revitalization efforts,'' says Frain.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Gavin Shire, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Denis Frain, City of Gulfport

Plan Hillsborough's Future With Imagine 2040

A new effort by the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization is encouraging Hillsborough County residents to participate in discussions about the future of both land use and transportation planning -- and you don't even have to leave your house.

The Imagine 2040 effort marks the first time in the history of Hillsborough County that the Planning Commission and Organization have been able to combine the land use and transportation plans together in one planning process. The 2040 Transportation and Comprehensive Plans will cover Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and Hillsborough County.

"This effort is meant to be more wide-range, enabling citizens to participate in the planning process without ever physically having to attend a meeting by using computer and social media technology,'' says Executive Director Hillsborough County MPO Ray Chiaramonte. "We are very excited about this effort and the chance to really hear our citizens' opinions in a more comprehensive way so we can craft a plan that truly reflects the desires of our citizens.''

By 2040, Hillsborough County is expected to have up to 600,000 new residents and about 400,000 new jobs. According to Chiaramonte, Imagine 2040's goal is to work together to turn the challenges that come with growth into opportunities for a thriving future.

How should we grow? By spreading new residents and jobs throughout the county? By focusing on growth in the centers we've already developed and creating new job centers along our major highways? This is your opportunity to design the future of Hillsborough County.

"We're at an important crossroads. Do we want to be a true national leader for job creation and livability for a new generation of young, well-educated high tech workers that can provide the spark we need to become a competitive player with the top communities in this country and in the world?'' asks Chiaramonte. "We have so much going for us without doing a lot that it's certainly within our possibilities to be a mecca for high-paying jobs. We can play it safe and be comfortably mediocre or we can strategically plan for taking our assets and building upon them to create a truly unique, special community for our future and the future of generations to come.''

Ultimately, Imagine 2040 is expected to create a blueprint for the future of Hillsborough County as leaders take a leap forward to get things done. By leveraging federal planning dollars and combining them with local funds, a more comprehensive and unified planning process is available; this gives the county the opportunity to address issues while reaching more residents.

"Together, we can develop a plan that has all the aspects that people say they want and, by participating, they can help craft and represent what they believe our community should look like. Residents will have a plan that they helped craft and can believe in rather than a top-down approach where they just react to what planners think that the citizens want,'' says Chiaramonte. "This effort is the most ambitious public participation process regarding long-range planning that we have ever attempted in Hillsborough County.''

Several scenarios for growth and infrastructure will be drafted and circulated for public comment later in the year.

So, how should we grow? What is important to you? Click here to learn more about Imagine 2040 and how you can get involved today.

Writer: Alexis Chamberlain
Source: Ray Chiaramonte, Hillsborough County

Invision Tampa Discusses Community Feedback For West River Neighborhoods

The reintroduction of the street grid in the Tampa neighborhoods along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, intense development on Main Street and greater access to the river are among key recommendations emanating from the Invision Tampa process now underway.

A community briefing on July 18, 2013 shared feedback from surveys, research and workshops for the redevelopment of the West River area near downtown Tampa. Stakeholders gathered to hear the Invision Team report back initial ideas and strategies from the input given during the last design workshop in June.

The West River area includes the western bank of the Hillsborough River and its neighborhoods according to the Invision Tampa website. The briefing is a way to continue collaboration between the design team and community stakeholders.

"The process is like a funnel," says Brenda Dohring-Hicks of The Dohring Group who attended both the West River design workshop and the community briefing. "They gather all the ideas and then narrow them down to a concept with effective strategies."

"The event had a lot of people from the neighborhood, which showed how much they care about the future redevelopment," explains Dohring-Hicks. 

The West River area redevelopment "will have a positive impact on the historic neighborhood," says Dohring-Hicks.  “Its proximity to downtown and surrounding areas will make the project even more impactful.” 

Invision Team encourages community members to share feedback on its website and through social media.  You can view the InVision Tampa Plan online or at the AIA Tampa Bay Galleria at 200 North Ashley Suite 100, until August 1, 2013.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Brenda Dohring-Hicks, The Dohring Group

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Riverwalk Connection Enhances Tampa's Sense Of Place

The groundbreaking of the Kennedy Plaza Riverwalk connection marks a fundamental link between downtown Tampa's recreational, residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and employment amenities -- the spaces that help define great cities.

The Riverwalk is perhaps the only vision for the city that has spanned six different mayoral administrations as a major element in Tampa's developing urban fabric. 

"This segment of The Riverwalk is much more than a connection or walkway,'' says Keith Greminger, senior planning and urban design manager at Kimley-Horn and Associates. "It is transformational, not only for The Riverwalk, but for downtown.'' 

The construction of this segment will provide a continuous walkway at the water's edge from the Florida Aquarium to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. It is one of Tampa's most prominent and place specific public realm features. The Riverwalk is the space between the natural environment and the built environment, and gives people access to both. 

The Kennedy Plaza connection will take people close to the water. The design of the deck and structural hoops serve as "portals emphasizing the 'on the water feature' of the new segment,'' says Greminger. The hoops expand on both sides of the bridge to accentuate the gateway into downtown.

The design of the hoops not only provides for different levels of shade, but the egg-shaped hoop solves structural issues by reducing the stress from uplift found in typical pole and fabric structures. The deck and hoop combination are designed to be climate-sensitive by addressing both sun and wind. 

A next phase may bring light beams, which extend from the largest hoops, over Kennedy Boulevard serving as a threshold into downtown.

Source: Keith Greminger, Kimley-Horn Associates, Inc.
Writer: Taryn Sabia

HART MetroRapid North-South To Begin Services In Hillsborough

A new HART system aims to speed up connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.

HART's MetroRapid will begin operations on Tuesday, May 28th, improving travel along selected service corridors, increasing service reliability and speed of transit. HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia says the system will make transit use easier for Hillsborough County residents.

“Added features like ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board,” Mejia says. “Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly.”

In addition to ticket vending machines, some of the system's new features include fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown neighborhoods and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.

According to Mejia, several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned, showing that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity.

Construction began on the North-South MetroRapid project in August 2013, totaling approximately $31 million, while the traffic signal priority project is cost an estimated $2 million. HART reported that the project came in under budget by $5.7 million, which will be reallocated back into Hillsborough County for infrastructure needs, if desired.

Both projects were paid for by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years," Mejia says. "With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county."

Currently, HART is continuing to make progress and expand the MetroRapid services, including the the East-West project which will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Making Tampa Streets More Pedestrian-Friendly

The City of Tampa is looking to give four streets a pedestrian-friendly makeover.

Funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), plans call for the installation of sidewalks and bike lanes on Palm Avenue, Bougainvillea Avenue, Willow Avenue and Cypress Street in Tampa.

The approximately $400,000 project is currently in the design phase with completion expected by summer 2013.

“This is just the beginning of how we will reshape our center city,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Projects like this are part of our strategy to make Tampa more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.”

In addition to this project, bike lanes will also be installed along parts of Doyle Carlton Drive and Laurel Street in Tampa. Additional on-street parking in the downtown Tampa area is also in the works.

“These improvements will make these streets safer for everyone, providing both residents and visitors more options to get around,” Buckhorn says.

The announcement of this project comes as progress continues on the InVision Tampa project, which will create a new master plan for downtown Tampa, the Nebraska Transit Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

Making Tampa a more attractive and accessible place for people to live, work, play and visit, a main focus for the project is to provide residents with streets that are connected and calm, encouraging neighborhood gathering spaces and pedestrian activity.

“We know that we need to make our streets more pedestrian friendly,” Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Port Of Tampa's Gateway Rail Terminal Wins Prize

The Port of Tampa's Tampa Gateway Rail terminal won the top honor at the 21st Annual Future of the Region Awards which acknowledges the strongest regional projects in the Tampa Bay area.

Officially dedicated in September 2012, the $11 million Tampa Gateway Rail project was made possible through strategic investments by the Tampa Port Authority and partners CSX Rail, Kinder Morgan and Transflo. Since, the project has created intermodal connectivity at the Port of Tampa and is expected to be a major catalyst in promoting trade opportunities for Tampa's port and Central Florida.

Hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the 21st Annual Future of the Region Awards luncheon honored local projects demonstrating strong regional qualities in community service, cultural/sports/recreation, environmental, infrastructure, public education and development. Awards were given based on each project's regional quality of life benefit, innovation, cost-effectiveness, benefit to the environment, capacity for continuing impact and regional benefit.

The Tampa Gateway Rail terminal was awarded the Charles McIntosh Jr. Award of Distinction and a first-place award in the Natural Resources and the Environment category.

“We are very excited that our commitment to development the Port of Tampa into a word class intermodal hub and this significant stratgic partnership has been recognized at such a high and prestigious level,” says CEO and Port Director Paul Anderson. “We can't thank our partners enough for their involvement and enthusiasm for the project.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Paul Anderson, Port of Tampa

Making Hillsborough Avenue Walkable, Bikeable In Tampa

Think Hillsborough Avenue could use some road improvements? The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) wants your input.

During a recent Crash Severity Reduction Study, the Hillsborough MPO analyzed county corridors, roadways and intersections with high crash rates, ultimately identifying a few areas that needed to be further studied, including Dale Mabry Highway and Waters Avenue, Waters Avenue and Hanley Road, nearly all of Fowler Avenue and East Hillsborough Avenue from I-275 to 50th Street.

"We did this overall crash analysis of the county and found that East Hillsborough Avenue could definitely use some help,'' says Gena Torres, project manager for the Hillsborough MPO. "There are some things we can do for cars, cyclists and people walking -- things that have been done across the country that need to be brought to Florida.''

Titled the East Hillsborough Avenue Corridor Project, the project will ultimately make traffic better and reduce crashes, says Torres. For example, after a lane was taken away to add bike lanes and bus pullovers on Nebraska Avenue, traffic slowed and crash rates dropped by up to 70 percent.

"Both traffic and crashes are a real problem here, in both the county and the state -- it's just not a good situation,'' Torres says. "We're trying to come up with inexpensive ways to ease traffic.''

According to Torres, this particular section of the road has been studied by many different agencies for different reasons: HART is looking to put in one of their new MetroRapid systems, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently installed new medians and the East Tampa Redevelopment is looking to do some work to make the lower-income, high-minority East Tampa community a more vibrant place to live, work and play.

"Whether residents walk, bicycle or are dependent on transit, someone in the community does these things and we need to be concerned about making Hillsborough Avenue a better road for everyone to use,'' Torres says. "Residents should be concerned.''

What will make East Hillsborough Avenue safer, walkable and bikeable? Lighting? Diverting traffic? Making space for on-street parking, buses and trees? Your thoughts will help determine the outcome of what the MPO presents to the FDOT for implementation. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, April 30th, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ragan Park Community Center at 1200 E. Lake Ave.

"We really need to determine the goals and objectives of the community and I think people have some really good thoughts that we won't be able to think of.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Gena Torres, Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization

New Tampa Bridge Enhances Safety For Drivers, Walkers

New Tampa motorists and pedestrians will soon have an alternative route over I-75.

Connecting Commerce Park Boulevard in Tampa Palms with New Tampa Boulevard in West Meadows, the New Tampa Boulevard Bridge will provide an easterly and westerly connection between Bearss Avenue and S.R. 56.

The $12.8 million bridge, designed by Kisinger Campo & Associates and constructed by Prince Contracting, will open shortly after a ribbon cutting by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on February 27th.

"The New Tampa Boulevard Bridge has been eagerly anticipated,'' Buckhorn says. "When combined with the widening along Bruce B. Downs, it will give residents of New Tampa the traffic relief they deserve.''

Giving motorists, pedestrians, first responders and New Tampa travelers an option other than traveling through the I-75/Bruce B. Downs interchange, construction began on the bridge in May 2011 and was not expected to see completion until July 2013.

Spanning a little less than one mile, the bridge includes a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side and an 8-foot wide multiuse trail on the north side, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross the interstate without using the high-traffic and construction-filled Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Additionally, the bridge will improve emergency access for first responders in the area.

The bridge came in response to the New Tampa Area Traffic Safety Study where existing conditions on roadways in the area were evaluated. New Tampa Boulevard from Meadow Pine Drive to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Commerce Park Boulevard and Tampa Palms Boulevard West and East were included in the study, honing in on potential improvements to enhance the safety and traffic ease of the New Tampa transportation network.

"Over the long term, the bridge and the convenience it provides to the surrounding neighborhoods will improve the quality of life for area residents,'' Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport To See New Check-In Area, Terminal

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is making some much-needed changes to ensure easier travel for Tampa Bay area residents and visitors.

In early February 2013, SRQ unveiled plans for a new check-in area as part of a master plan to renovate many areas of the two-story, 240,000-square-foot airport; SRQ currently houses 14 gates for flight arrival and departures, serving seven major airlines.

“The sleek, contemporary styling is more economical and easy to maintain, and the new lighting systems are environmentally friendly,” says SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo. “SRQ takes pride in providing a safe, customer-friendly airport where travelers can enjoy a relaxed and stress-free experience in a modern and easy to navigate terminal.”

During the past two years, under the master plan, SRQ has installed new escalators, renovated restrooms, replaced chillers and HVAC systems, updated information technology infrastructure, updated the baggage screening system, resealed most of the building exterior and replaced the roof and skylights.

Future plans for improvement under the master plan include remaining terminal renovations and third office facilities and baggage claim. Travelers can expect renovations to be complete within the next two years.

“SRQ, like any commercial airport, generates a great deal of tourism and business activity with more than 1.3 million passengers utilizing the airport each year, spending millions in the local community,” Piccolo says. “Having a vibrant and thriving airport is a key economic attraction.”

Currently SRQ is a totally self-sufficient, funding an operating budget of over $16 million in business activities. With no taxing power, the airport -- the primary air carrier and general aviation airport for Sarasota and Manatee Counties -- provides local economic impact and job creation at no cost to Tampa Bay area residents.

Additionally, SRQ is on track to be debt free by August 2014, paying off the remaining $6 million of $150 million in terminal debt.

“This will essentially result in a new terminal with no debt -- that is rare amongst airports anywhere,” Piccolo says.

With nonstop service to major cities including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago and New York and easy connections to other countries, SRQ currently generates more than 11,000 jobs and $962 million of economic impact on the local community.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Rick Piccolo, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport
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