Commuters traveling between Pinellas and Hillsborough County can soon rejoice – the eagerly anticipated Selmon Extension is nearing the finish line.
The $230 million extension, which was fully funded through toll revenue and bonds, is about 90 percent complete. It will be ready for drivers by summertime, if not a little sooner, according to Matthew Kappler, project administrator with Cardno, the engineering consultant for the extension.
“We’ve had some time extensions mostly due to holidays and weather,” said Kappler of the project, which broke ground in early 2018 and was originally slated to open in 2020.
When complete, motorists will be able to go from Gandy Blvd. and merge on the two-mile extension allowing them to bypass the traffic below. They then have the option to get off on a new exit at Dale Mabry Hwy. or continue on the existing Selmon Expressway all the way to Brandon.
Aside from the utility of having an easier way to get around the Tampa Bay area, the extension also includes some aesthetic elements as well. In 2017, nearly 2,000 people voted to select a design concept for the 35 piers in the project, with “Estuary” nabbing two-thirds of the vote. The middle of the piers, which hold up the 30-foot bridge, have been painted blue with white lines representing nature in the form of a river delta or canopy of cypress trees. The design is also featured on the extension’s 27 fins that span the bridge.
Additionally, the extension has LED lights that can change color – similar to the ones on the Sunshine Skyway – and are controlled by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority office downtown.
“If USF is playing they can make the lights green, or if the Bucs are playing, they can make the lights red,” Kappler said. “It’s a beautiful enhancement to the project.”
Landscaping has also been a key focus of the extension. More than 3,000 brick pavers, which were cleared to make way for the project, will be reinstalled in the Gandy median, along with colorful plants. The Authority has also planted in upwards of 1,000 trees and greenery along the route.
“We didn’t want it to look industrial in the middle of a residential and commercial area,” Kappler said.
And in regard to commercial properties, the Authority has worked with local businesses among the Gandy corridor by adjusting work hours and developing a Shop Gandy! campaign to encourage people to patronize these establishments. Some of these businesses include a new Publix, a car wash, a mixed use development and a bank.
While this marks the end of the extension project, continued growth means that the Authority will have plenty of opportunities to work on ways to reduce congestion. Over the next 10 years, THEA plans to invest $1 billion on several new projects designed to accommodate what’s to come for the Tampa Bay area.
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