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Downtown Tampa quiet zone silences train horns with FDOT grant funds

Downtown Tampa and Channelside residents will rest a little easier in coming months, thanks to a $1.35 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Trains travel through Tampa on a daily basis, and their horns “are a nuisance,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Train horns are sounded in compliance with federal rules and regulations, which require a train to blast its horn for 15 to 20 seconds at any public crossing. As a result, the loud but legally mandatory horns are “bouncing off the buildings throughout downtown, bothering residents and impacting our economic opportunity as our urban core continues to densify," Buckhorn says.

In fact, the sound of train horns in downtown Tampa has been such a sore subject among residents that some have turned to a Facebook page, called “Help Tampa Sleep,'' to address the topic in a public forum.

Back in August 2014, the city contracted King Engineering Associates to study the development of a “quiet zone” in downtown Tampa.

Buckhorn’s staff reached out to the FDOT to seek information about quiet zones after learning that Florida Gov. Rick Scott was to include quiet zone funding in the state budget. The funds, awarded to the City of Tampa through FDOT’s Quiet Zone Grant program, will be used to create the “quiet zone” along CSX railroad tracks throughout downtown Tampa -- meaning trains will no longer blare their horns in the middle of the night as they pass through town.   

State funding will not cover the entire cost of creating a “quiet zone” in the middle of downtown Tampa -- the anticipated cost for the projects is $2.7 million. FDOT grants will provide up to half the cost of creating quiet zones. The projected improvements are expected to begin in summer 2015.

To silence train horns in downtown Tampa, the City of Tampa must meet “quiet zone” safety requirements established by the Federal Railroad Administration. The project will include the upgrade of nine public highway-rail crossings through downtown Tampa -- from North Jefferson Street to Doyle Carlton Drive -- with additional gating, street medians and signage. 

“Downtown residents and businesses can coexist with the trains, and a quiet zone allows us to strike that balance,” Buckhorn says.

Some citizens are concerned with the solution, however. Gasparilla Interactive Festival Executive Director Vinny Tafuro, a downtown resident, says that he is "hopeful that the project successfully quiets the horns," but is also "concerned with the aesthetics of how the crossings will look, and the reality of the CSX engineers actually following the guidelines and not blowing the horns."

"As a fan of innovative technology, I would prefer a long-term solution that improved on a loud horn as a warning," Tafuro says. "Seems archaic."

In fact, the Train Quiet Zone rules do stipulate that a train horn may be blown in a "quiet zone" during emergency situations.

To view the grant application and award, please visit the City of Tampa’s website or click here. To learn more about the Train Horn Rule as well as Train Quiet Zones, visit the Federal Railroad Administration's website.

Tampa invests $30M in water lines, cycle track

The city of Tampa will invest nearly $30 million in three infrastructure projects that aren't likely to stir up the kind of excitement that comes with news of a new residential tower or hotel in downtown.

But those projects, mostly out of sight and below ground, are part of a long-term effort to expand and upgrade the city's aging water lines to meet the demand of a growing urban population.  Among the benefits are increased water pressure and fire hydrant flows.

Construction will begin on all projects in January and last approximately 18 months. Each project costs slightly under $10 million.

"It's not something shiny and flashy but it's something equally important," says Tricia Shuler, a construction engineer for CH2M Hill, the engineering firm hired by the city to oversee the projects.

Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio started the expansion and upgrades to the city's utility infrastructure nearly six years ago in East Tampa. Since then, various Utility Capital Improvement Projects (UCAP), also by CH2M Hill, have replaced and extended water and sewer lines into the downtown area and South Tampa.

One noticeable change will be the conversion of Cass and Tyler Streets from one-way to two-way streets and the construction of a cycle track where bicyclists will be separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier.

"It's going to become a very appealing asset through downtown," Shuler says. "People will feel like they live in a big city."

The changes to Cass and Tyler are part of Invision Tampa, a blueprint that emerged from Mayor Bob Buckhorn's efforts to redevelop the downtown core and surrounding neighborhoods. The goal is to restore the downtown's street grid which for years has been dominated by one-way streets.

CH2M Hill also will bury box culverts to ease flooding along Rome Avenue and Cypress Street. This will set the stage for future storm water projects.

Work will continue on installation of a 36-inch water transmission line from David L. Tippin Water Treatment Facility to South Tampa.  In December CH2M Hill completed construction of a 500-foot tunnel across the Hillsborough River to minimize the impact of pipeline installation on the environment.

Additional work will extend the pipeline from North Jefferson and East Cass streets, then along Tyler to Fortune, west across the river and end at North Boulevard and West Cass.

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

For 25 years the dream has been to build a new Temple to serve Tampa Bay's growing Hindu community. It is a pledge that Physician Pawan Rattan, made to his father many years ago.
Last weekend a prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony brought the dream to reality. Within the next 12 to 18 months, a 10,600-square-foot Temple will be built at 311 E. Palm Ave., within one-mile of downtown Tampa.
"It's a very significant event for us," says Rattan, who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sanatan Mandir. "It celebrates our culture, our heritage. It brings us together. At the same time it promotes mutual respect for others."
Unlike many Hindu temples that are ornate and built in marble, this Temple building will reflect the historical character of Tampa Heights as well as traditional Hindu temple architecture. The facade is of red brick. The roof will be topped with five sikharas, or rising towers.
Wisdom Structural, Inc., Roosevelt Stephens Drafting Service and Ferlita Engineering are working on the approximately $1.5 million project. Several hundred construction-related jobs will be created. 
"My hope is that this also triggers an uplifting of the area," says Physician and Philantropist Kiran Patel.
For more than two decades, a 4,000-square-foot building at the Palm Avenue site has served as the Hindu Temple, Sanatan Mandir. It was once the educational building for the Jewish congregaton of Rodeph Sholom, which relocated to South Tampa. According to Hillsborough County records, the Jewish congregation sold the Palm Avenue property to Rattan in 1988. It later was transferred by deed to Hindu Samaj, Inc.
Once the new Hindu temple opens, the building will become a community hall.
The Rodeph Sholom temple building, at 309 Palm Ave., was torn down years ago. Plans are to install a marble art piece at the new Hindu Temple to honor the Jewish heritage at the site.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Physicians Pawan Rattan and Kiran Patel, Sanatan Mandir

South Tampa Boutique Hotel Opens To Guests

The long-awaited opening of the food-themed Epicurean Hotel on South Howard Avenue officially is two days after Christmas. But General Manager Tom Haines anticipates a "soft" opening with at least some rooms occupied by guests a few days sooner.
And gift cards are available for hotel stays, dining at the Élevage restaurant, hand-crafted cocktails at the roof-top bar EDGE, sweets at Chocolate Pi patisserie or culinary classes at the Epicurean Theatre.
"The response has been overwhelming," says Haines. "It seems to resonate with people."
The 137-room boutique hotel is in the Hyde Park historic district, across from landmark Bern's Steak House, founded more than 50 years ago by Gert and the late Bern Laxer. Their son, David Laxer, and Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are partners in the hotel project. Marriott Hotel International, Inc., will add the Epicurean to its Autograph Collection, a select group of hotels that are operated without the Marriott name but offers guests the perks that come with the Marriott brand.
Among unique features at the hotel are bicycles for touring Hyde Park and Bayshore Boulevard and evening wine samplings.

The hotel also will have Chocolate Pi, a French-style patisserie, Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits, and 5,200 square-foot flexible event room suitable for weddings, honeymoons, bar and bat mitzvahs.

In February a full-service luxury spa, Evangeline, will open.
The hotel is taking an innovative path and tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement with culinary classes for beginners and experienced cooks. World-known chefs and sommeliers will visit the state-of-the-art Epicurean Theatre for cooking demonstrations, wine exhibitions and special events.

And the hotel will participate in the annual Bern's WineFest.

"There are so many foodies out there," Haines says. "They are hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. The theater cements that for people."

The first culinary classes will begin Jan. 20 with Mastering Wine Aromas. Other early topics are History of the Cocktail and tea blending. Haines says classes will be held "about every day of the week."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tom Haines, Epicurean Hotel

Encore Rising: Downtown Tampa’s Mixed-Use Redevelopment Grows

Encore, the $425 million mixed-use redevelopment venture between the Tampa Housing Authority and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation, spans 12 city blocks of downtown Tampa, where Cass Street meets Nebraska Avenue.

The emerging neighborhood not only spans the physical distance between Ybor City and the Central Business District, it bridges generations of people while recognizing the city's rich musical history.

Four Encore residential buildings are in various stages of development. Ella, is already home to active, senior residents and nearly 100 percent occupied. Trio is designed for families with children, singles and couples. Preleasing for the mixed-income apartment homes will begin toward the end of the year. Reed, will break ground in mid-August and will be home to active seniors. Tempo, currently in design, will begin construction in early 2014 and families can choose from one, two, three or four bedroom mixed-income apartment homes.

Young professionals, families and active seniors alike will be moving into downtown Tampa’s Encore development. Of the combined 649 units, 305 are dedicated for active seniors.   

"We welcome our first residents, and look forward to having many others join them as this vibrant downtown neighborhood continues to take shape," says Senior VP Eileen Pope of Banc of America Community Development Corporation.  The project will continue over the next seven to nine years and when complete, more than 2,500 people will call Encore home.

From environmentally sustainable construction and public art to a new park and public middle school, Encore brings together Tampa's history with vibrant redevelopment, serves as a catalyst for economic investment and creates an enduring future through a multigenerational neighborhood.

Writier: Taryn Sabia
Source: Eileen Pope, Banc of America Community Development Corporation

Riverwalk Connection Enhances Tampa's Sense Of Place

The groundbreaking of the Kennedy Plaza Riverwalk connection marks a fundamental link between downtown Tampa's recreational, residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and employment amenities -- the spaces that help define great cities.

The Riverwalk is perhaps the only vision for the city that has spanned six different mayoral administrations as a major element in Tampa's developing urban fabric. 

"This segment of The Riverwalk is much more than a connection or walkway,'' says Keith Greminger, senior planning and urban design manager at Kimley-Horn and Associates. "It is transformational, not only for The Riverwalk, but for downtown.'' 

The construction of this segment will provide a continuous walkway at the water's edge from the Florida Aquarium to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. It is one of Tampa's most prominent and place specific public realm features. The Riverwalk is the space between the natural environment and the built environment, and gives people access to both. 

The Kennedy Plaza connection will take people close to the water. The design of the deck and structural hoops serve as "portals emphasizing the 'on the water feature' of the new segment,'' says Greminger. The hoops expand on both sides of the bridge to accentuate the gateway into downtown.

The design of the hoops not only provides for different levels of shade, but the egg-shaped hoop solves structural issues by reducing the stress from uplift found in typical pole and fabric structures. The deck and hoop combination are designed to be climate-sensitive by addressing both sun and wind. 

A next phase may bring light beams, which extend from the largest hoops, over Kennedy Boulevard serving as a threshold into downtown.

Source: Keith Greminger, Kimley-Horn Associates, Inc.
Writer: Taryn Sabia

Trammell Crow Spreads Sustainable Development Worldwide

Trammell Crow Company started its focus on sustainable design and development in 2005. Since 2006, the company has completed over 20 million square feet of LEED certified projects, with more in the pipeline.

About 85 percent of the company’s projects are LEED certified, which are 30-40 percent more efficient than traditional buildings.

"The whole idea is to leverage knowledge. To see the best of what’s going on around the country and make sure that we are constantly building on top of the best of what we see done when we take on a new development," says Robert Abberger, Senior Managing Director and Chief Sustainability Officer for Trammell Crow Company.

One such concept is the use of potable water to fuel cooling systems so the condensed water generated can then be pumped back into the water and sewer system, creating a multiplier effect.

Abberger notes that the biggest energy user in the world is commercial buildings (even more so than cars or residences), creating huge implications for the impact on human health and the environment.

Projects in Tampa Bay include the Marriott Waterside in downtown Tampa, an intermodal facility at the Port of Ybor and Posner Commons on I-4.

A flagship project is Darden's global headquarters in Orlando. Since Trammell Crow Company developed the building, the company has taken sustainability to the next level, reducing potable water consumption by more than 1 billion gallons per year throughout its 1,700 restaurants.

Abberger says his job is particularly rewarding when clients share his passion and excitement for sustainability. "The things that we’re doing have a national impact, which is then carried to international activities. It’s pretty rewarding."

The company is one of 13 local businesses honored recently with The University of Tampa's Earth Charter Sustainable Business Awards. The awards were based on three criteria: people (employee and community wellbeing), planet (environmental health) and profit (economic viability).

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Abberger, Trammell Crow Company

Net Zero Energy Building Opens In St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg's first self-sustaining, net zero building celebrated its grand opening on Monday, December 3rd.

As Florida's first designated green city, St. Petersburg is the new home of the Sierra Club's state headquarters and Big Sea Design and Development and Roundhouse Creative offices.

Built by All Florida Management with partners Bosch and Florida garden center Twig Leaves, St. Pete's first self-sustaining, net zero building is a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum applicant, fully equipped with environmentally friendly solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, a water-to-air geothermal heat exchange system, glare-reducing thermal barrier window tinting, green spaces with native landscaping, rainwater harvesting and a weekly recycling program.

In other words: zero energy bill.

“These days, green businesses aren't just focused on developing earth-friendly technologies -- they are committed to offering a product or service that consumers know has little to no environmental impact,” says Tom Hall, the building's developer and managing partner of All Florida Management. “The emergence of this new green business culture has allowed our company to focus on meeting the needs of the small business community by dedicating ourselves to cultivating environmentally conscious commercial building platforms that reflect both our clients' personal and professional values.”

Roundhouse Creative is one of those small businesses looking to take advantage of everything the new eco-friendly building has to offer; Andrew Lee and his wife, Brooke, founded their production studio in 2007, focused on telling powerful stories and creating beautiful designs. Roundhouse Creative moved into a 2,600-square-foot space in the new building that is shared with Big Sea Design and Development.

“We made the decision years ago in our personal lives to be conscious of the environment and are excited about what being net zero will mean to our customers,” says Lee. “By hiring Roundhouse Creative, our customers can now benefit from the fact that their new website, TV commercial or web video has been produced with a near net zero environmental impact.”

With Roundhouse Creative's new space currently open for business, Lee looks forward to thriving in downtown St. Pete: What he calls a regional hub for art, culture and great food.

“Innovative, forward-thinking projects like this building are a perfect fit for the city and add to why I love St. Pete. I couldn't be more excited about what this project means for the area,” he says. “I hope other business owners become educated on the benefits of net zero and understand that they can now make conscious decisions for their business with the environment and future generations in mind.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Tom Hall, All Florida Management & Andrew Lee, Roundhouse Creative

City of Clearwater Makes Plans To Improve U.S. 19

The U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater is about to become more attractive, successful and sustainable.

Preliminary plans are in the works to improve the Clearwater stretch of U.S. 19 because conditions along the main north-south road have changed dramatically over the past several years.

According to Cate Lee, planner at the City's Planning and Development Department, recent construction has begun hurting some businesses dependent on impulse customers relying on direct access from U.S. 19. The City's new plans will allow and incentivize investment in properties located along the corridor that may be prohibited or discouraged now under current plans or codes.

“The City of Clearwater is undertaking this planning process to set the framework for development post-Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) roadway improvements,” Lee says. “The plan that will be the end result of the current study will guide growth along the corridor for the next few decades.”

Offering recommendations on a wide range of topics from land use to urban design and mobility to sustainability, the final report will promote more sustainable forms and patterns of development by improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections throughout Clearwater.

Currently, the study area includes the segments of the U.S. 19 corridor from Belleair Road north to Curlew Road while considering the future of Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street and North McMullen Booth Road.

“This planning effort takes a long range view of the corridor: What is the future? What types of land use and development do people who, work, play and shop along the corridor want to see?,” Lee says. “The roadway improvements allow for greater regional connectivity to Tampa and south Pinellas and north Pasco counties.”

Lee stresses the importance of taking advantage of the corridor plans and improvements to create more jobs and quality places for residents to live, work and play. The City expects final planning and approval of the plan by the end of Summer 2012 with the final adoption by City Council by Fall 2012.

Want to have a say in the changes made along the corridor? The City is encouraging feedback from those who regularly use the Clearwater portion of U.S. 19 to help identify problems, offer ideas and suggest possible solutions via an online discussion board.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Cate Lee, City of Clearwater

FDOT Plans To Widen I-275 Between Floribraska, Yukon In Tampa

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is planning a new project for 4.2 miles of Interstate 275 between Floribraska Avenue and Yukon Street.

According to FDOT Public Information Officer John McShaffrey, the $30 million project will widen both inside and outside shoulder areas along north- and southbound I-275, south of Floribraska Avenue to north of Yukon Street. The project aims to create a more consistent shoulder width.

“It's a safety project,” McShaffrey says. “As you drive through that area now, there are shoulders of varying widths -- some aren't even wide enough to pull over if you break down or have a minor accident.”

Partial demolition and widening by Prince Contracting will occur on a total of 26 bridges, widening each to connect in the center. There will also be widening of non-bridge shoulder portions of the highway while existing grass and guardrail in current medians will be replaced by a concrete barrier to match median connections on the north and south ends outside of the project limits.

“Ultimately, the shoulders will be about 10 feet wide, enabling people to pull off in case of an emergency,” McShaffrey says. “A lot of times when you break down and there's no shoulder area, it takes up a lane. This project, once complete, will allow traffic to keep flowing when you have those kinds of instances.”

Expected to begin in June 2012, the project will also include some drainage, sign and signal work. Existing overhead message signs will be replaced by signs with color displays.

Completion of the project is slated for Summer 2014 with periodic north- and southbound lane closures between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The current 55 mph speed limit will remain during construction.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: John McShaffrey, FDOT

Downtown Tampa's Platt Street Bridge Re-Opens, $13.8M Investment

After 105 days of construction work on downtown Tampa's Platt Street Bridge, the 85-year-old bridge is once again open to the public.

Officially opened to traffic in the early hours of January 17th, Tampa drivers should still expect occasional individual road closures and lane shifts similar to those performed before the bridge closed in October 2011. Work on the $13.8 million project began January 2011 and will continue until fully completed in the Spring of 2012.

Remaining work on the 518-foot bridge includes painting, restoring the tender house, installing vintage street lighting and updating various electrical components. Once completed, the bridge will look almost exactly like the $400,000 original,  including functionality and 1926 historical appearance.

Funded by Community Investment Tax proceeds and federal grants, project contractors were given an incentive to finish on-time: If construction during the closure was finished before January 16th, Hillsborough County would pay contractors $10,000 per day. On the other hand, for everyday that the completion date was delayed, the contractor would be penalized $10,000.

“It's such a critical artery,” says Steve Valdez, spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Public Works Department. “We wanted to make darn sure we lessened the amount of adverse impact as much as we possibly could.”

Work on the Platt Street Bridge is being done partly to see completion before the Republican National Convention in the Tampa Bay area in August 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Steve Valdez, Hillsborough County Public Works Department

New College Earns Gold For Going Green, Sarasota

New College of Florida in Sarasota has gone green.

Opening a new $11 million Academic Center just in time for 50 classes for the Fall semester, the college was recently awarded with gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for the extensive number of environmentally friendly features the building offers.

New features include special CO2 room sensors that measure air quality and adjust the air-conditioning system accordingly, specially designed built-in tanks to collect storm water, toilets that flush using residual rainwater from the roof and air-conditioning condensate, pavers and reflective roofing materials and high-efficiency windows to promote natural lighting.

“Environmentally, the New College Academic Center uses fewer of our regions natural resources,” says Lynn Riechmann, spokesperson for the college. “The architectural features that garnered the building golf LEED certification certainly help minimize our carbon footprint as we continue to provide better facilities for students.”

Part of the New College Campus Master Plan that was approved in June 2008, the 3,500-square-foot Academic Center encompasses all that the plan envisioned: environmentally progressive campus development over the next 30 years, promoting a more seamless relationship between academic and residential life.

“The new center really enhances the educational experience for students,” says Riechmann. “About 20 percent of our alumni live and work in the Tampa Bay area, entering the regional workforce as doctors, lawyers, educators, leaders and other professionals.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Lynn Riechmann, New College of Florida

Tampa's Drew Park To Get New Look, Design

The City of Tampa recently held a community meeting to discuss the Drew Park Streetscape and Beautification Master Plan project.

The third and final meeting for the project included a presentation of the final draft of conceptual designs for the community plan, providing local residents and property and business owners with a guide for future aesthetic and streetscape public improvements throughout the Drew Park neighborhood.

“The plan outlines design objectives, principles and criteria for specific streetscape sections, as well as guidelines for future projects,” says Jeanette LaRussa Fenton, manager of the Drew Park and West Tampa Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). “The plan consists of both descriptive narrative and detailed graphics that capture the intended look of major corridors and other business and residential road segments.”

With funds mainly coming from the Drew Park CRA Tax Increment Financing (TIF), substantial investments will be made to the Drew Park area over the next five years. Among the plans to greatly improve community infrastructure, a major storm water improvement project, which is included in the Master Plan, will significantly reduce flooding while improving roadways and streetscapes for both residents and business in the area.

“Developed with the input of the Drew Park CRA Community Advisory Committee and other community stakeholders, the Plan provides for comprehensive, coordinated improvements that will vastly improve the appearance of Drew Park and its attractiveness for investment,” says Fenton.

Work on basic improvements is slated to begin by the end of 2011.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jeanette LaRussa Fenton, City of Tampa

Florida Students, Faculty Compete In U.S. Energy Solar Decathlon 2011

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, Team Florida has spent nearly two years working on its entry: the FleX House.

Based on a design by a partnership between the University of South Florida (USF), Florida State University (FSU), the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Central Florida (UCF), the FleX House is jam-packed with the latest cutting-edge, energy-efficient technology complete with moving parts that can easily adapt to different site situations and plan configurations; a $20,000 photovoltaic (PV) array was even recently installed onto the roof of the 1,000-square-foot building.

“Systems such as the solar array are opportunities to show society that we can make the right steps toward sustainability,” says Justin Vandenbroeck, a FSU engineering major who acted as an engineer on the project. “We aren't relying on fossil fuels to produce our energy -- instead we're harnessing the power of the sun that's been shining on us as long as we've existed. It's a common misunderstanding that solar energy is a futuristic idea that isn't practical, but it's actually very feasible.”

More than 50 students and faculty have worked on the $200,000 FleX House project behind the Beck Group's headquarters in downtown Tampa, at 220 W. 7th Ave. Donations and in-kind services from businesses throughout Florida such as Solar Ray, Prosolar Systems and SolarWorld USA -- a company where Vandenbroeck interned -- provided funds for the Solar Decathlon entry.

“Our objective was to design and build a solar-powered house that is not only energy efficient but cost effective as well,” says Vandenbroeck. “This event is an opportunity for students of all majors to express their visions on a large scale and really show the change they want to see.”

In order to participate in the Solar Decathlon on September 14 in Washington, D.C., the FleX house must be dismantled for transportation and reassembled before the competition where it will be judged against a variety of 18 houses for the title of the most energy efficient in the world.

“By investing in solar energy, you’re not only investing in energy independence in our country, but you are investing in a green economy and creating jobs right here at home,” says Vandenbroeck. “The sun isn’t going to stop shining anytime soon, so let’s take advantage of it.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Justin Vandenbroeck, Florida State University

DOT Widens Tampa's Selmon Expressway, $110M Road Project

Tampa's Lee Roy Selmon Expressway is about to get wider, giving commuters a more streamlined trip to and from downtown Tampa from points south and east in Hillsborough County.

According to Kris Carson of the Florida Department of Transportation, construction is slated to begin in November 2011. The project will add a lane in both directions of the Selmon Expressway from just west of Morgan Street to just west of 21st Street, relieving congestion due to frequent repairs.

"This heavily traveled section requires continual maintenance that often results in lane closures and traffic disruption," says Carson. "It has  ceased to meet the needs of area traffic. This project will relieve the cost and inconvenience of maintenance and at the same time expand the bridge to six lanes, easing congestion."

Carson estimates the project's cost at approximately $110 million, and notes that it will tie in with proposed work on the Crosstown Connector that will join the expressway with Interstate 4. The toll expressway spans a continuous bridge structure that looms above southeast Tampa from Gandy Boulevard to Brandon neighborhoods. Carson says the project will require removing and replacing decks on both bridges that carry commuters in each direction.

"The existing bridge piers will remain,'' she says. "New piers will be added to support the new widening.''

Carson says the bidding process will begin in June 2011, and the project's completion date is yet to be determined. "The maximum allowable contract time is 760 calendar days, but the design-build teams may include a shorter schedule with their bids."

Writer: Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Kris Carson, Florida Department of Transportation
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