Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Buck-O-Meter

Create a plan to pay for and finish the Riverwalk


"The first year ... Bob and his team will develop a financing plan to complete the unfinished segments of the Riverwalk."


Subjects: Recreation, Water

Updates

Federal grant to pay for remaining segments of Riverwalk

As he ran for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would develop a financing plan to complete the unfinished segments of Tampa's 2.6-mile-long Riverwalk during his first year in office.

When PolitiFact Florida asked about the plan in an interview on Feb. 28, 2012, Buckhorn joked, "that's called begging.”

Turns out there was a bit more to it than that.

Tampa officials learned from members of Florida's congressional delegation on June 19, 2012, that the city would receive a $10.9 million federal TIGER grant to build two remaining sections of the Riverwalk. The news came almost six months to the day after federal officials denied the city's previous application for a TIGER grant.

On March 16, 2012, about two weeks before Buckhorn's first anniversary as mayor, Tampa put in a revised application for the next round of TIGER grants.

This time, Tampa officials included another government agency and other modes of transportation — traits the TIGER program is designed to support. The city teamed up with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority to connect the Riverwalk to a proposed 1.7-mile multiuse trail along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Together, the projects will create pedestrian and cycling connections to public bus lines and the TECO Line streetcar. Moreover, the city and expressway authority pledged a total of $4.7 million in local matching funds for the grant.

The city and its allies also took pains to make Tampa's case in person. Buckhorn met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood repeatedly. The city's lobbying firm, Holland & Knight, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, provided support for the effort.

Finally, the timing was good. President Barack Obama is running for re-election, and Tampa is the biggest city in a critical region of key swing state.

As a candidate, Buckhorn promised that during his first year in office he would come up with a financing plan to finish the Riverwalk. As mayor, he lobbied, fine-tuned the project's details and took advantage of good political timing to secure the grant. The payoff came after his first year was complete, but the work began before. We rate this Promise Kept.

Sources:

Interviews with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Feb. 28, 2012, and June 19, 2012

Interview with Ali Glisson, Tampa public affairs director, June 20, 2012

Speech by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, March 21, 2012

Speech by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to the Tampa Downtown Partnership, June 19, 2012

City of Tampa application for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, March 16, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, Tampa will try again for federal grant to finish Riverwalk, Jan. 26, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Riverwalk dream comes true, June 20, 2012

Begging for federal dollars

As he ran for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would develop a financing plan to complete the unfinished segments of Tampa's 2.6-mile-long Riverwalk.

So, the plan?

"That's called begging,” Buckhorn joked in an interview with PolitiFact Florida on Feb. 28, 2012. As mayor, Buckhorn has met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood three times to talk about the city's request for a federal transportation grant, known as a TIGER grant, to pay for building the last unfinished sections of the Riverwalk.

The final gaps in the Riverwalk consist of one segment that would connect MacDill Park to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, and a second that would go north from near the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts along Doyle Carlton Drive to Water Works Park.

Together, those two segments would cost $13.7 million. Of the two, the MacDill Park-to-Curtis Hixon park segment is more expensive, nearly $10 million. That's because the Sheraton hotel and other properties along that section are built out to the seawall, so the Riverwalk will have to be built over the river near the bank. The project also would require the construction of an underpass under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge.

In December 2011, federal transportation officials denied the city's application for a grant to build that section of the Riverwalk. For that round of grants, the agency received 828 applications totalling more than $14 billion in projects, but it had only $511 million to award.

On March 16, 2012, the city applied for the transportation department's next round of TIGER grants to be announced in the fall. This time, the city is teaming up with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority to link the Riverwalk to a proposed 15-foot-wide, 1.7 mile multi-use trail that would be built along the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. The Selmon Greenway would connect to the Riverwalk and go east and north to just east of 19th Street.

"I think it will be a more robust application, based on our conversations on our last TIGER grant,” Buckhorn said.

The city and Expressway Authority are seeking a total of $10.9 million in federal TIGER grant funds and have committed to matching that with another $4.7 million -- or 30 percent of the projects' total costs.

Buckhorn said he plans to seek support from private sector donors to shore up the city's match, though he had yet to talk to his prospects.

As a candidate, Buckhorn promised to come up with a financing plan to finish the Riverwalk. He has one, although it depends on the federal government coming through for the city and some yet-to-be-identified private support. As such, it's a promise that's still In the Works.

Sources:

Interview with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Feb. 28, 2012

Speech by Mayor Bob Buckhorn to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, March 21, 2012 

City of Tampa application for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, March 16, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, Tampa will try again for federal grant to finish Riverwalk, Jan. 26, 2012