TAMPA -- An accident that killed three people on the Selmon Expressway Thursday raises questions about the safety measures in place there. There are no guardrails. In fact, there are no barriers at all, other than a grassy median separating drivers from oncoming traffic.
The deadly crossover accident has people who ride that stretch of road wondering why, unlike most sections of highway, there's no guard rail or divider wall protecting them from oncoming traffic.
“Yeah, there should be a guard rail there,” said driver Paul Gregory. “They’ve been putting those in everywhere else, so if it needs it, yes sir.”
Most of the toll road itself has a safety barrier, but not the south Tampa section between downtown and Gandy Boulevard.
“It's a state-wide design standard that we are following,” said Sue Chrzan with the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority.
Chrzan says given the 55-mile-an hour speed limit along the Selmon Expressway, the fact it's only two lanes in each direction, and that it's in such a densely-populated area, legally they don't have to spend money on a guardrail.
“The design standards in this part don't call for median barrier,” she said.
Another factor that dictates whether a stretch of highway needs a guard rail is the number of crossover crashes during a particular time period. The Expressway Authority says there's been only one other crossover incident in the last four years and two in the last ten. And in neither of those cases did it lead to a wreck with another vehicle.
“Again because of the accident rate, there hasn't been a need to put anything in there because the accident rate was so low,” said Chrzan.
Officials say future plans call for widening the same stretch of road to three lanes in each direction, at which time a barrier would have to be built. That's not to say this latest accident won't lead them to at least discuss the issue again before that.
“We look at it every year. So again, when it's time to re-look at this, we will definitely be looking at that,” said Chzan.
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