Gandy humming along
April 22, 2009
The good news for Pinellas commuters and drivers in South Tampa is that construction on Gandy Boulevard is about three months ahead of schedule and should be finished by August or September.
That's little consolation for the road's merchants, who say the reconstruction project's medians will permanently limit access to their businesses.
Medians showed up three weeks ago in front of Mr. Empanada's and already the restaurant's owner, Jorge Tamargo, is wondering whether his business will survive.
"It's not the economy that's hurting us. It's this," Tamargo said, motioning to the barriers just outside his business. "It's real bad. We're day to day."
At the Citgo gas station across the street, owner Mehradad Alidaei says business has dropped 50 percent the past few weeks after the medians went in.
Traffic engineers favor medians because they stop motorists from making left turns from the center lane, across oncoming traffic. A recent study of accidents on Hillsborough Avenue showed a 33 percent reduction in crashes from 50th Street to Nebraska Avenue after medians were installed in 2007. Severe crashes declined 49 percent.
Engineers also are planning U-turns at several intersections. Double left-turn lanes are being added at Manhattan and West Shore, and single left-turn lanes will go in at Trask Street and Lois and Clark avenues
A year into the Gandy reconstruction, though, merchants along the four-lane highway are bracing for life after the project, and they're not hopeful. "Nobody wants to come here, because they have to go down the road and make a U-turn," Alidaei said.
The Department of Transportation expects to pay $500,000 for the Gandy project's landscaping. However, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority is studying whether to build a two-lane toll road directly above the landscaped medians. The road would connect the Selmon Crosstown Expressway with the Gandy Bridge. If that project proceeds, all or most of that landscaping will get yanked out because of construction.
Under normal conditions, the DOT would hold up its planting schedule, but in this case the Crosstown project hasn't been approved yet. The authority says it won't know whether it will move forward with the overhead road until October, after the reconstruction project is finished.
"I don't think we're going to hold off on something because of the possibility that something may or may not happen," department spokeswoman Marian Scorza said.
Back to Tampa Tribune Page. . .
Back to Home Page. . .