A closer look at Gandy corridor road projects

Published Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Spiffy Gandy in Bull's-eye" | May 1

Road projects aren't at odds

The article referenced above raised concerns about a Florida Department of Transportation project that is nearing completion on Gandy Boulevard and how it may be affected by a Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority (THEA) proposed improvement.

The DOT project is a safety improvement, with aesthetic treatments. To enhance safety, the DOT reduced the number of left-turns on Gandy. This minimizes conflict of left-turning traffic with opposing traffic. Dual left-turn lanes at the West Shore and Manhattan intersections were included to accommodate the large volumes of traffic. The dual left-turn lanes on Gandy require a 30-foot median.

THEA's proposal addresses congestion on Gandy. It would move regional through trips to a high-speed, tolled, elevated "express lane." This would allow Gandy to operate significantly better during rush hours for local trips by the residents and for trips to Gandy area businesses.

The proposed express lane will attract commuters who are willing to pay a toll to get through the Gandy area quickly. Their destination is not in the Gandy corridor. They are making time-sensitive trips, which is why they would be willing to pay a toll for a higher-speed alternate. The tolls would pay for the improvement.

The article in question stated the effect of the THEA proposal on the FDOT improvements would "turn fresh landscaping to rubble and force those decorative lights to shine amid the concrete pilings of a roadway." A clearer picture of the THEA proposal is that it would minimize impacts to the DOT's median landscaping and complement other aesthetic features.

• Support piers for the elevated roadway would be in the median, spaced at approximately 140-foot intervals. The footprint of each pier would be approximately 6 feet by 5 feet. Plants or trees disturbed by the pier construction would be relocated or replaced.

• Impacts outside of the median would be minimal. Most of the superstructure can be built off-site, and much of the assembly would be accomplished from above the existing travel lanes.

• The 30-foot height is well above the streetlights and signs that are being installed today and would allow ample sunlight to reach a landscaped median below. Businesses and aesthetic enhancements across the corridor would be fully visible by drivers on Gandy.

Additionally, development of an aesthetic treatment for the Gandy corridor improvement is included in THEA's planning process. The current lights and landscaping being installed by the DOT are a good starting point to develop a "Gandy sense of place."

THEA, the DOT and the City of Tampa are working together to balance the concerns of the Gandy neighborhoods, the needs of regional and local drivers, and provide enhanced evacuation routes for the region. We are committed to working with the community, and remain available to discuss the concerns of individuals or groups in the effort to find practical solutions.

Joe Waggoner, executive director, Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority

Donald J. Skelton, District 7 secretary, Florida Department of Transportation


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