Last Friday and Saturday, I traveled to two very different communities to celebrate two very different projects. In Tampa, Florida, I toured the Interstate-4 / Selmon Expressway Connector, and in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I attended the grand reopening of the Wealthy Street Transit Operations Center.
The two cities are 1,250 miles apart, but I heard the same message in both places: we welcome the jobs, the more effective transportation, and the economic opportunity these projects are making possible. And those are precisely the benefits that would be delivered nationwide by the 6-year transportation bill President Obama called for in his State of the Union last week.
In Tampa, the Crosstown Connector will provide trucks going to and from the Port of Tampa with seamless access to I-4, allowing them to drive from the Port all the way north to Maine without hitting a single traffic light. This allows the Port of Tampa to compete for the increased cargo volume coming through the expanded Panama Canal. According to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the project has created 14,000 jobs. And, when you take 11,000 trucks per day from area roadways, you're also making it a lot easier for the region's commuters to get to jobs and schools and other key services.
In Grand Rapids, the Operations Center of the Interurban Transit Partnership--also known as The Rapid--will also make it easier for area commuters to get where they're going. In the last 15 years, The Rapid's fleet of buses has nearly doubled, as has the number of passenger trips, from 4.2 million to 10.8 million. Because the newly renovated center increases The Rapid's storage and maintenance capacity, the fast-growing transit service will be better equipped to meet its customers' needs.
These are two very different projects that are both so important to their communities. And both of them have been supported by federal investments. These investments have created jobs, and they've improved access to economic opportunities like shiploads of cargo or jobs.
And if Congress acts on the President's call for a long-term transportation bill that continues investing in the foundation of our economy, we will see those benefits achieved in communities from coast to coast. Across America, there is work to be done on needed projects like Tampa's Crosstown Connector and The Rapid's Transit Operations Center. Across America, there are workers ready to roll up their sleeves and lay track or pour concrete.
Let’s put our friends and neighbors back to work making a transportation system that is once again the envy of the world. Let's dig deep and forge the foundation of an America that’s built to last.