Driving between Tampa-St. Pete just got a little fasterGandy extension of Crosstown opens

After decades of discussion and planning and two and a half years of construction, the Selmon West Extension is open, offering motorists a traffic light-free drive between Brandon and the Pinellas County side of the Gandy Bridge.

The 1.9-mile elevated toll bridge along the median of Gandy Boulevard in Tampa will serve the dual purpose of allowing drivers traveling between Hillsborough and Pinellas to bypass the congestion and traffic lights below while also reducing traffic on Gandy by attracting regional drivers up to the top deck, says Kym Graves, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority public information officer for the Selmon Extension. She says the elevated toll road will also serve as an additional hurricane evacuation route for the St. Petersburg area. 

The THEA is funding the $230 million project with toll revenues and bonds. Toll rates to use the extension are 95 cents with a SunPass and $1.31 for toll-by-plate. 

Going back to at least the 1990s, the THEA, the city of Tampa, and the Florida Department of Transportation have discussed a western extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, formerly known as the Southern Crosstown Expressway, to help regional motorists avoid south Tampa congestion. Graves says by opting for an elevated bridge and building up instead of out, the THEA was able to use existing right-of-way and avoid purchasing homes or businesses along the route.
 
During construction, the Expressway Authority regularly updated business owners in the area about the project’s progress and promoted a Shop Gandy! campaign launched in partnership with the South Tampa, Greater Tampa, St. Petersburg Area, and Greater Brandon chambers of commerce to promote businesses along the roadway during and after construction.

In response to business owners’ concerns, the new bridge stands 30 feet above the ground instead of the typical 15 feet so motorists on Gandy will be able to see businesses on both sides of the road. Designers also reduced the number of support piers by 30 percent and spaced the columns out, on average, by 200 feet to give businesses better visibility.

The elevated tollway features 27 unique architectural fins. These concrete encasements have a post-tensioning system protected by a wax flexible filler that helps support the bridge and allows the THEA to reduce the number of support piers below. Graves says the Selmon Extension is the first project in the U.S. to use that design technique.

The fins and the piers below the toll bridge will have decorative lighting. Below the extension on the median of Gandy, the project also includes new landscaping. 

“The Expressway Authority wanted to make sure the bridge is aesthetically pleasing,” Graves says.

Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. is the construction firm for the extension. AECOM is the designer and Atkins Global handles construction, engineering, and inspection services.

For more information, go to Selmon Extension.
 

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.
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