TAMPA, Fla. - The ribbon was cut Monday on the long-awaited Selmon Expressway West Extension. The 1.9-mile, $230-million bridge carries traffic above crowded Gandy Boulevard in Tampa, connecting the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway with the Gandy Bridge.
"It is going to be incredibly functional, and to that end it will be a great relief to everyone who lives in this community," said Tampa mayor Jane Castor.
The project has been fought over for more than 20 years.
"We tried this a couple of times and the community wasn’t ready for it, and we listened," said Vince Cassidy, chairman of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority.
Starting in the 1990’s, there was opposition from business owners and neighbors who feared the area of Gandy Boulevard beneath the bridge would suffer economically.
To minimize possible negative impacts, the designers or the project made the elevated bridge 30 feet above the surface road instead of the standard 15 feet. Medians, planters, and the design of the concrete supports for the bridge was shown to community members.
Neighborhood association representative Laura Roake said she has high hopes for the project. Planners say it should reduce traffic on Gandy Boulevard by 40 percent.
"I’m only hoping that people will actually use the overhead, that’s the hope here because it would be kind of nice to get our old Gandy back," she offered.
Lee Roy Selmon’s widow, Clybra Selmon, attended Monday’s opening. She said her late husband would have been proud.
"I’m sure that he would also say it’s not so much about him, it’s about this wonderful extension that’s going to be a great asset to this community," she said.
A trip on the extension adds 95 cents onto your SunPass or $1.31 with pay-by-tag.