Selmon Expressway crash highlights need for guardrail

This is the second crash in recent months in an area where there's no barrier between the expressway lanes.

A crossover accident Tuesday morning on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway tied up traffic for several hours. 

It was the second incident in four months involving a vehicle crossing the median and hitting an oncoming car. 

Now the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority is planning to refinance some of its debt to help accelerate a project that will bring a protective barrier to the roadway.

Both recent crashes happened along the same stretch of the expressway between downtown Tampa and Gandy Boulevard, where there are long sections which have a grassy median but no wall and no guard rail.

In Tuesday’s accident, a pickup truck lost control of its trailer, which Tampa police say then swung across the median before striking an oncoming minivan head-on.

In August, three people were killed in another head-on accident along this same stretch of road when a driver claims to have had a seizure and crossed the median in an area with no barrier.

“I mean, you hear about them a lot, absolutely - the crossover crashes,” said Elissa Olson, who drives the same roadway. “And so, there's obviously some room for improvement there.”

Before the collision in August, expressway authorities said there had been only one previous crossover accident in the last four years. 

Now they've had two in four months.

“It does make it more timely, yes,” said Sue Chrzan, a Spokesperson for the Expressway Authority.

Chrzan says because of the speed limit through the area, population density, the number of lanes, and a previously low accident rate, they weren't required by law to add a barrier until the roadway is expanded several years from now. 

Instead, this month they plan to refinance some of the toll road's bond debt and use seven million dollars in savings to accelerate the project.

“Now we are looking into going to construction by 2019 and hopefully being completed in 2020,” said Chrzan.

Officials say they were planning to expedite the project even before Tuesday morning's accident, underscoring, perhaps, the potential danger of a stretch of road which currently offers little more than a patch of grass between commuting and chaos. 

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