Gandy-West Shore outlook: cars, cars, cars
St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, Fla.
Author: JANET ZINK
Date: Sep 7, 2006
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Sep 7, 2006

Future development around the Hillsborough side of the Gandy Bridge could put as many as 80,000 cars on a road system that can handle only 34,000 cars a day, according to a consultant's report presented to Tampa City Council members Wednesday.

Preventing a perpetual traffic jam at Gandy and West Shore boulevards and surrounding streets will require at least $120- million in improvements, which could include an elevated highway to take Pinellas County commuters directly from Gandy Boulevard to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway leading to downtown, according to the consultant. But there's no money budgeted for such a project.

The Florida Department of Transportation has plans to spend $20- million in improvements on Gandy Boulevard, which would increase capacity to 50,000.

Construction was supposed to begin this year. But bids for the work came in at $30-million, so the DOT is revising the scope of the project, which could delay it by 12 months, said Steve Daignault, the city's administrator for public works and utilities.

Meanwhile, most of the city of Tampa, including the Gandy/West Shore neighborhood, is part of a specially designated area in which the City Council cannot deny development on the basis of failing roads.

The designation was created about 20 years ago to encourage development, Daignault said.

Its relevance on the heels of the recent building boom will be part of the agenda at a City Council workshop Sept. 26.

City officials are also looking at increasing transportation impact fees to help pay for road improvements.

The city's transportation impact fee hasn't been updated since 1988. The fee in Tampa ranges from $485 to $1,449 per unit for multifamily projects and $716 to $2,071 per unit for a single- family home.

"A lot of places in the state are in the $6,000 to $7,000 range for a single-family unit," Daignault said.

Already, more than 4,900 multifamily units and 500 single-family homes are planned for West Shore Boulevard just north and south of Gandy Boulevard, which will take the number of cars on the road each day to about 60,000.

More development is likely.

Landowners on a peninsula south of Gandy called Rattlesnake Point are seeking changes to the city's comprehensive plan to allow more than 2,100 homes on their property.

The City Council is scheduled to consider that request today. If the plan change is approved, developers would still need to apply for rezonings before they could build.

"When these projects, especially Rattlesnake Point, come in for rezoning, they're going to have to prove to the council that not only can they address these serious transportation issues, but they're also going to have to fund them," said City Council member John Dingfelder. "The city doesn't have the money to do it."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226- 3401.

Future development around the Hillsborough side of the Gandy Bridge could put as many as 80,000 cars on a road system that can handle only 34,000 cars a day, according to a consultant's report presented to Tampa City Council members Wednesday.

Preventing a perpetual traffic jam at Gandy and West Shore boulevards and surrounding streets will require at least $120- million in improvements, which could include an elevated highway to take Pinellas County commuters directly from Gandy Boulevard to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway leading to downtown, according to the consultant. But there's no money budgeted for such a project.

Meanwhile, most of the city of Tampa, including the Gandy/West Shore neighborhood, is part of a specially designated area in which the City Council cannot deny development on the basis of failing roads.

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