TAMPA (FOX 13) - More elevated roadways could be headed to the Tampa Bay area by the end of the decade. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority has approved $2.6 million for the next step in the Selmon West Extension Project.
A spokesperson tells FOX 13 an engineering company has been hired to "put together all of the details that a construction company will need" to build the extension. The new elevated lanes would connect the Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge and help relieve congestion.
"It does a number of things. It helps the traffic on Gandy Boulevard by removing the regional traffic, because those people that go up on the extension. They’re paying a toll," said Sue Chrzan of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. "They’re not a customer of Gandy business. They’re just trying to get through the neighborhoods. So, by moving them up off Gandy Boulevard, that will leave Gandy Boulevard for the people that want to go to the businesses down there."
The new lanes are also expected to provide an alternative to Gandy Boulevard during an evacuation.
"When an evacuation should happen, Pinellas people are going to come over and they’re going to clog Gandy Boulevard," said Chrzan. "With the extension in place, we can put all that Pinellas County traffic up on the extension. Both lanes can be turned in the eastbound direction and that will leave all of Gandy Boulevard and the regular Selmon Expressway eastbound lanes for South Tampa and Gandy/South Tampa residents to evacuate."
According to Chrzan, the tentative schedule includes awarding a contract sometime next year, with groundbreaking slated for the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. The goal is to have the extension available for public use by 2020.