Foes of tollway extension unite
May 13, 2009
Opponents of a two-lane elevated extension of the Selmon Crosstown Expressway that would connect with the Gandy Bridge are gearing up to block the proposed road project.
About 35 South Tampa residents and business owners who collectively call themselves the Project Advisory Group met last week to talk strategy. The group maintains it has signatures of about 1,500 people who don't want the estimated $100 million elevated roadway.
"Let's give it all the energy we've got and move forward," said Mikael Eskildsen, owner of the Scan Design furniture store where the meeting was held.
For the past two years, Gandy Boulevard has been a construction site as workers have added landscaped medians, turn lanes, decorative lights and other additions.
In April the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority unveiled plans for the extension, saying it would reduce rush-hour traffic on Gandy. Others say diverting traffic from Gandy will harm area businesses and lower property values.
"The community I talk to doesn't want it," said business owner Mark Rubio.
Regency Cove resident Mary Lou Mittel said she was skeptical of assertions made by an authority representative at a neighborhood meeting recently. "He made it sound like a barrel of roses," she said.
Residents were told there would be improvements to Regency Cove's entrance. "Does that sound like someone is paying you off?" Mittel said. "It did to us."
Opponents will direct their protest to the Expressway Authority, but also plan to e-mail, write and telephone agencies that might have a say in the project. A protest along Gandy Boulevard is in the works.
And they are seeking alternatives to the overhead roadway.
At last week's meeting, Davis Islands resident Neil Cosentino brought up a 1999 study that estimated it would cost $73 million to build a four-lane tunnel from the CSX railroad to Bridge Street.
Within at least the past 10 years, other options, including a four-lane elevated road costing about $310 million, have been studied. All have met with mixed reviews. Other options have been to widen Gandy to six lanes and a four-lane bypass south of Gandy that would cut through Gandy Gardens.
Jorge Urgarte, president of Interbay Neighborhood Association, said, "If they're not going to accept alternatives, we have to fight this one."
A public hearing will be held in mid-July.
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