Gandy median project ahead of schedule
April 15, 2009
The good news for commuters who take Gandy Boulevard is those orange barrels will disappear sooner than expected. <
The $23 million reconstruction of Gandy in South Tampa is a few months ahead of schedule. Instead of finishing in November, officials at the state Department of Transportation now expect work to be wrapped up in August or September.
"We've been blessed with good weather and have had good cooperation from our contractor," DOT project engineer Rolando Luis said.
For now, workers are focusing on Gandy from Manhattan Avenue to Bridge Street.
They're installing medians between Manhattan and West Shore Boulevard. Likely, that will continue until mid-May.
In a couple of weeks, eastbound traffic will be shifted 15 feet to allow workers to build medians from Bridge Street to West Shore.
Medians have already been installed from Dale Mabry to Manhattan. The drainage and utilities work is complete and most of the sidewalks and curbs have been added.
Traffic engineers favor medians because they eliminate left turns from the center lane, across oncoming traffic.
For merchants, they remain the most controversial aspect of the project because they limit access to their businesses.
Medians showed up in front of Mr. Empanada's on Gandy three weeks ago and already the restaurant's owner is wondering whether his business will survive.
"It's not the economy that's hurting us. It's this," owner Jorge Tamargo said, motioning to the new barriers. "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.
A year into the project, 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.
Regardless, the medians won't be pulled out now and they remain only one element of the project. Double left-turn lanes at Manhattan and West Shore also are being constructed, and single left-turn lanes are going in at Trask Street, Lois Avenue and Clark Avenue.
Landscaping work, including live oaks and shrubs, is expected this summer.
The department will pay $500,000 for the landscaping â?? money, it turns out, that might not be well spent.
As the department reconstructs Gandy, 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, which now ends at Dale Mabry Boulevard, with the Gandy Bridge.
If that project proceeds, all or most of that landscaping would get yanked out because of construction.
The authority says it won't know whether to move forward with the overhead road until October, after the reconstruction project is finished.
Under normal conditions, the DOT would hold up its planting schedule, but in this case the Crosstown project hasn't been approved yet.
"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.
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