Tampa Ready For Republican National Convention

4:36 PM, Aug 14, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- The city has fast tracked more than a dozen projects so that Tampa shines during the Republican National Convention.

The latest to be completed are the new water lights unveiled on Friday.

But not everything will look so good. For example the Hut, a closed restaurant across from the Forum, still sits empty and looks more abandoned than ready to be rented.

"It would have been nice to have a park there or a fountain, but we don't. So we don't think about the bad stuff, we focus on the good stuff," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said of the building, which is privately owned.

The good stuff, the mayor says, includes the 36 dilapidated boat slips along Bayshore which have been taken out and the beautification of the city's most famous thoroughfare, Bayshore Boulevard. Buckhorn also points to the replacement of dozens of downtown trees and plants as well as the improvements to the "Opportunity Corridors" or to the main roads leading into downtown.

Still the widening of I-275 between Bearss Avenue and I-75 will not be completed before the convention starts on August 27th and it will be used by Texas delegates staying in Pasco County.

Neither will the reconstruction of I-275 through downtown, which will be the road used by thousands staying in Pinellas County. In fact, the reconstruction project between downtown and the airport was stopped years ago and won't resume until after the convention.

The work currently being done on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway right in front of the Forum will also not be finished before Republican delegates begin arriving.

Yet, Convention Chief Operating Officer Michael Miller didn't think the sight of construction barrels would be a problem.

"I have not heard that as a real problem from our transportation company. They seem to think our system will move and I have not heard of impediments due to construction.

When asked if the construction would be an aesthetics issue, Miller said it did not bother him.

To make the area look better and ensure traffic does run smooth, Florida Department of Transportation officials say no major work will be done the week of August 27th.

"Specifically we won't be doing any lane closures, anything that will impede the progress of people coming to and from the events," FDOT Public Information Officer John McShaffrey told 10 News on Monday. He added work sites will also be cleaned up next week.

But taken all together, the mayor insists the city will be ready.

"I think when folks see this community, when they see the warmth of this community and the beauty of this community and they see those bridges light up at night and they see the minarets light up and get to interact with our citizens, hear their stories... I don't know how anybody could not spend time here and not fall in love with Tampa."

WTSP

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