Benefits of Selmon extension come with temporary traffic headaches

There are new road closures ahead for drivers and businesses on Gandy Boulevard beginning Tuesday.

As workers piece together the Selmon Expressway Extension to the Gandy Bridge, the construction is creating bumper-to-bumper traffic and lots of headaches. But the relationship between locals and the congestion is love-hate. Drivers said they don’t like the traffic, but they like seeing progress.

Business owners along Gandy Boulevard, like Michael Beard of 81Bay Brewing Company, said the he's lost customers due to the construction.

“Unfortunately, we've had several groups and events come from St. Pete, and several of them have notified us that they're going to be late -- including food trucks, art events, and music people,” said Beard.

And big weekends at the brewery come with a warning.

“Especially when we have large events, we say ‘Hey where are you coming from?’ and they say, 'St. Pete,' we tell them consider alternate routes,” said Beard. “And we really tell everyone that.”

Once finished, the Selmon Extension will help move regional traffic from Brandon all the way to St. Petersburg without drivers hitting a stoplight. Project managers said they know the current construction can be a headache right now.

“With construction, there’s stuff you can’t avoid like noise. But like I said, most of our work is done at night because we have to close the lanes, and we don’t want to impact travelers during the day,” said Kym Graves, the project information officer of the Selmon Extension project.

With a year of work left, drivers said they are looking forward to the time they could save. The Selmon Extension project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2020.

“I’m wondering if we could use it to get onto Dale Mabry, get on the overpass and head on over instead of coming down Gandy and avoiding all the local traffic. So it should shorten the commute to the beach,” said driver Sheri Davis.

Business owners said they believe the finished road will help drive more locals back in their doors.

“So while it hurts in the short-term, we're hoping it's a net positive in the longterm,” said Beard.

Selmon project managers said they meet with local residents and business owners every few months to hear any concerns they may have about the construction.

From Tuesday through Thursday, during nighttime hours only, Gandy Boulevard will be closed in both directions between Dale Mabry Highway and Church Street so workers can put up steel beams. Road officials said the Selmon off-ramp to westbound Gandy will be closed while the eastbound off-ramp will remain open. Road officials say to pay attention to the posted detours using Dale Mabry Highway, Euclid Avenue or Bay to Bay Boulevard. Bridge segments will also be set at Westshore and Gandy Boulevard.

Selmon project managers said the improvements to Westshore Boulevard will include widening the northbound and southbound sides and improving drainage. Those improvements are expected to be finished by late summer 2020.