Settlement from crosstown collapse to fund extra downtown lane
July 13, 2009
Motorists who use the Selmon Crosstown Expressway can look forward to less congestion through downtown Tampa as part of a broader plan approved Monday by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.
The plan calls for another lane going both ways on the expressway for a mile between Morgan and 19th streets. The extra lane would add $50 million in costs to an already approved $70 million project to replace old decking on four lanes in that vicinity.
The extra lane will be made possible by a $75 million lawsuit settlement the authority won several weeks ago related to the 2004 collapse of the reversible express lanes on the crosstown. The board voted to use that settlement money to pay down the authority's long-term debt. That will allow the board to borrow between $300 million and $400 million for other projects.
In addition to adding the lane to the expressway, executive director Joseph Waggoner also wants the authority to be the toll collector on the proposed connector the crosstown and Interstate 4.
The authority was originally supposed to collect the tolls, but was unable to continue financial contributions to the project because of costs related to the collapse of the elevated express lanes. In December 2004, the Florida Department of Transportation designated the Florida Turnpike Enterprise as the toll collector.
"We needed (the turnpike) and they stepped in," authority spokeswoman Susan Chrzan said. "Now we're back on our financial feet and we'd like to take over the position again."
Waggoner's plan envisions putting $80 million in bonded money toward the $500 million I-4 connector. That will be added to $28.8 million, which is Hillsborough County's highway portion of federal stimulus money, and $20.4 in other local funding and grants.
The state transportation department must approve the transfer of the toll collecting ownership to the expressway authority.
Waggoner's plan also calls for a new toll structure. Instead of a 50 percent increase in tolls on the crosstown planned for 2017, the authority would raise tolls incrementally, based on inflation, costing travelers less in the long run, he said. Waggoner said the authority would make less money from the incremental increases, but would enjoy more ridership on both the expressway and the I-4 connector.
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