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Tampa City Council votes to move forward with construction agreement for Riverwalk expansion

Riverwalk with pedestrians and benches. Buildings in Tampa's skyline can be seen in the background.
Thomas Iacobucci
WUSF Public Media
The Tampa Riverwalk as seen in 2019. The West Riverwalk project will focus on expansion to communities west of the Hillsborough River.

The proposed changes would add an additional $26.8 million to the initial budget projections.

The Tampa City Council is signing off on an expansion of the Riverwalk to connect with more neighborhoods west of the Hillsborough River.

The expansion, known as the West Riverwalk project, was approved by a 5-2 vote last Thursday.

It will add $26.8 million to the initial budget projections, bringing up the project’s price tag to $56.8 million. The contract requires a final vote, which is scheduled for July 18.

Map shows Tampa Riverwalk expansion
City of Tampa
This map shows the initial plans for the West Riverwalk project.

Ultimately, the project will complete a 12-mile network of bike and pedestrian walkways with over-water segments and living shorelines across urban Tampa.

Initially, a $24 million federal grant secured by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) was expected to cover up to 80% of the project.

However, price escalations due to the pandemic raised expected costs to their new estimates.

Some council members voiced concerns over the budget increases, including council members Bill Carlson and Lynn Hurtak.

“The people I’ve talked to in West Tampa see it as a downtown project, not as West Tampa,” Carlson said. “They see this a being a value, but they want their community fixed.”

“As much as I want this — and I am the first person to support mobility — we cannot afford it,” Hurtak added.

Those heading the project are more optimistic about the anticipated gains the expansion will bring to local communities.

“When you look at an economic development standpoint, that price is still worth it to the benefit that it brings to the community,” said Vik Bhide, director of the City of Tampa’s Mobility Department.

In addition to the economic boosts, Bhide said that expansion will increase safety and accessibility for West Tampa, which is home to historically lower income communities.

“[The project] really resonates with every aspect of the mayor’s strategy relative to sustainability and resilience, workforce development, safety and of course housing affordability,” he said.

If approved, work on the West Riverwalk project will begin in the coming months and is expected to be completed by 2027.

Tyler Luginski is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.