May 2021 – A little bit of rain didn’t stop Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) from celebrating its opening of the Selmon West Extension. THEA officially opened the roadway on April 19, 2021. The $230 million project, a 1.9-mile, elevated toll lane, seamlessly connects drivers traveling from Brandon to Pinellas County. But the project also has a dual purpose: the roadway serves as an evacuation route for vehicles crossing Tampa Bay.
The Selmon West Extension spans a segment of Gandy Blvd. that connects the Gandy Bridge to the Selmon Expressway. It is a part of a high traffic link between Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. In 2014, the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) evaluated the corridor in a vulnerability study that looked at strategies to lessen the impacts of storm surge and flooding. It then made additional recommendations in a later study from 2016 called the Selmon Expressway Western Extension – Gandy Boulevard Assessment.
“Hillsborough County is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes and heavy rains, so making our transportation more resilient to flooding is extremely important,” Allison G. Yeh, AICP, LEED GA said. Ms. Yeh serves as an executive planner and sustainability coordinator for the TPO. She worked on the Federal Highway Administration-funded vulnerability study with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Hillsborough County Public Works Department, the University of South Florida, the University of Florida, and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. The study recommended that construction along the Gandy corridor should integrate asphalt and a higher profile. THEA heeded the study’s suggestions which will allow emergency vehicles to use the corridor more quickly after heavy rains.
THEA’s implementation of the study’s outcomes gave TPO Executive Director Beth Alden more reason to celebrate. “The Gandy Bridge, and the causeway that leads to it, is a critical link between Tampa and St Petersburg — for families, commuters, and tourists; for hurricane evacuation; and for goods and services that are essential every day and especially essential in a post-storm recovery scenario,” Ms. Alden said. “We’re very appreciative of the Expressway Authority’s extra steps to make Gandy Boulevard on the causeway less vulnerable to storm surge wash-out so that the road will be usable even after being submerged.”
To find out more about strategies for consideration in the design-build of the Selmon Expressway Western Extension, visit Selmon Expressway Western Extension – Gandy Boulevard Assessment (2016) | Plan Hillsborough.
To find out more information about the TPO’s work to create a more resilient Tampa Bay, visit https://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/video-story-on-how-Tampa-Bay-prepares-for-hurricane-season-and-climate-change-040721.aspx.