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A change could be coming to the Selmon Expressway near Amalie Arena to relieve Tampa traffic

outside of Amalie Arena with a bunch of fans coming out and into the arena.
Carl Lisciandrello
On Tampa Bay Lightning hame Days, Ramp 6-B on the Selmon Expressway is closed off, forcing people drivers to find alternative routes and slow city traffic.

Under a proposal from the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, a ramp near Amalie Arena would be removed and a new one would dump out at the arena parking area.

As Tampa continues to grow in population, so does the number of cars on roadways, leading to miles of traffic some days.

Now, one point of congestion around Amalie Arena is being examined as a potential valve to clear some of that traffic.

On Tampa Bay Lightning game days, Ramp 6-B on the Selmon Expressway is closed off, forcing drivers to find alternative routes and slow city traffic.

Under a new proposal from the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, that ramp would be removed and a new one would dump out at the Amalie Arena parking garage.

THEA CEO Greg Slater says this will provide a big relief for traffic, and not just on game days.

"For the first time in the history of that expressway, we're trying to manage volumes of traffic coming into the city in the evening,” Slater said. “So it's not only Lightning games and special events, it's [that] we have more and more people coming in on a Wednesday night to go to dinner on Water Street. More and more people."

And, Slater says, a goal of the change is to create more connectivity.

“What we need to do is make sure that our ramps are in the right location, that our ramps are feeding into the downtown urban core in a good safe way, and that we're transitioning from an expressway to urban travel because your priority in those two functions is very different,” Slater said. “On an expressway we're moving cars, but in a dense urban environment, I'm moving pedestrians and bicycles and people on scooters at a higher priority, from a safety perspective, than I am the vehicles.”

The plan would also connect Whiting Street to Meridian Avenue, creating a new pathway to get through downtown city traffic.

Slater said there haven’t been as many safety concerns on the expressway near downtown as there have been traffic concerns and buildup.

Slater estimates the project could cost roughly $50 million to complete. All of that funding comes from revenue made off of the expressway.

Before this project were to get going though, it still has hurdles to pass through.

The project at the top of the list for THEA right now is improving the expressway infrastructure at the Hillsborough River Bridge to the Gandy Extension. That includes building some new bridge decks and elongating some of the merge areas.

“Realistically, we're probably five to six years away from starting [the downtown project] based on where we are financially, and what we need to do first, and then the design and work that needs to be done,” Slater said.

And the plans still needs to get additional feedback from THEA, the Hillsborough Planning Commission, and then back to the THEA board for final approval.

But overall, Slater says these projects need to be completed to keep Tampa from falling far behind and experiencing even stronger levels of gridlock.

“We're very focused on making sure that our expressway is working and functioning in a way that's going to meet where Tampa is headed and not where Tampa is going,” Slater said.

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