Tampa urged to oppose roadway

By Janet Zink, Times Staff Writer

Published Thursday, March 4, 2010

TAMPA — For years, people who live and work on and around Gandy Boulevard have made it clear: We don't want an elevated toll road in our neighborhood.

On Thursday, they took to the Tampa City Council their concerns about the project, providing the signatures of more than 1,000 opponents.

"This does not have community support. It does not have support of the businesses. It does not have the support of the residential," said Al Steenson, a long time resident of the Gandy Boulevard neighborhood.

The council has no control over the project, which would largely serve Pinellas County residents by connecting the Gandy Bridge to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

But Steenson and others urged the council to make sure the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, which is moving forward with the project, knows it doesn't have community backing.

"We need you to back us in our opposition to this monstrosity and bring as much political clout as you can to the authorities at THEA," said Joseph Booker. "We can't afford anymore of this empire building."

Construction of the road is expected to begin around 2013.

Residents say the elevated road will be an eyesore, and owners of Gandy Boulevard businesses worry they will lose customers.

The Expressway Authority revived the once-abandoned project at the request of city officials in 2007, when exploding development in the area made it seem that congestion on Gandy Boulevard and the surrounding roads would turn into gridlock. But the failing economy tanked some of the area's proposed developments. And since the Florida Department of Transportation made improvements to Gandy Boulevard, traffic flow has improved.

Council member John Dingfelder said he understood that a study by the Expressway Authority indicated the negative impact on businesses would be minimal, and said the road could help with hurricane evacuation.

But council member Mary Mulhern questioned the need for the road, and said at the very least the council should make sure the agencies planning it know the community opposes it.

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


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