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Elevated Lanes On Gandy Proposal Advances

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

A project to put two elevated toll lanes on Gandy Boulevard in Tampa is taking a step toward reality after decades of debate and false starts.

The Tampa Bay Expressway Authority unanimously approved a $2.6 million contract Monday to have engineering firm Parsons and Brinckerhoff draw up the concept plans. It's considered a big step for the 25-year-old project, because once they have the concept plans the authority can start taking bids from construction companies.

Known officially as "The Selmon Extension," the project would extend the Selmon Expressway nearly two miles westward over the Gandy Boulevard median to the Gandy Bridge. The project is estimated to cost nearly $200 million.

Sue Charzan, a spokeswoman for the Expressway Authority, said the group will hold town hall-style meetings throughout the construction phase to talk about neighborhood issues and get community input on the look of the median.

In the past, residents and businesses objected to the plan because of the increased traffic during construction and the belief that not many people would use it.

Business owners are concerned about how construction might affect their business and that some customers might pass right by overhead. Charzan said Expressway Authority officials are currently going to door to door at local businesses to talk about the project.

"Commuters really want this. The regional travelers and now the South Tampa people that are stuck in all of that traffic are really wanting the project," she said.

The project is slated to begin construction by the end of 2017 and completed by 2020. The Expressway Authority wants to have construction completed by the time the Florida Department of Transportation wants to begin work on the State Road 60 interchange as part of the widening of I-275.   

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.