Public gets chance to weigh in on plans to widen Selmon Expressway, South Tampa to Downtown

If you’ve driven on the Selmon Expressway from South Tampa to Brandon anytime lately, you know it can be crowded during certain times of the day. And with the Tampa Bay Area population growing faster than most cities in Florida and in the U.S., use of the toll road is expected to increase exponentially in coming years.

That’s why plans are underway to add lanes to the Selmon.

The preferred alternative plan to expand the Selmon Expressway for 4.5 miles between Himes Avenue and Whiting Street involves adding a wall where a new outer lane will be constructed. This will help limit construction and traffic noise for the surrounding neighborhoods, officials say.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) will put its preferred plan on display Thursday, Feb. 25, beginning with an open house from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin Street, Tampa. There will be a presentation at 6 p.m. followed by the remainder of the open house until 7 p.m.

“Eventually we will need two added lanes,” says Susan Chrzan, communications director for THEA. “What we are proposing is that we build to the outside and get everything ready, so we are only in the homeowners’ backyards once. When we need the second lane we would widen to the inside. We are putting walls up from Himes all the way down the project, so the noise and construction mess is contained.”

THEA started the South Selmon Project Development and Environment Study in 2019 and expects to wrap it up by mid-year.

The study evaluates how to add capacity to the existing Selmon right-of-way, Chrzan said, adding that this would be the maximum the highway can expand.

“It’s such an urban area now, but it didn’t used to be in the 1960s when they planned (the highway), so I can’t speak to what they thought back then. This next improvement we do will probably be the last thing we can do because there is no more room. We want to stay within our right of way. We don’t want to take any properties. We are adding lanes we need because the expressway is getting full, but Florida is growing and the Tampa Bay region is growing.”

The expressway was designed to be a pass-through for commuters to keep them off of city and neighborhood streets, Chrzan said. “That is what a limited-access highway is supposed to do. But we also worked with the City of Tampa and on each exit and entrance we are doing things they want us to do, like adding a light at Euclid because there is so much traffic.”

The authority also works with homeowners’ associations to beautify areas under highway overpasses, like it did at Swann Avenue when it added landscaping and lighting.

To learn more about the project, visit the South Selmon PD&E Study website. 
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Read more articles by Yvette C. Hammett.

Yvette C. Hammett, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida, has spent much of her career as a professional journalist covering business, the environment, and local features throughout the Tampa Bay Area. She is an avid camper and outdoors person who has also been involved in local events for foster children and the elderly.