TAMPA, Fla. — The wait is finally over. After 2.5 years of construction, the Selmon Extension's 1.9-mile toll lane is open to traffic.
Tampa Bay area travelers will be able to take the elevated roadway for a "pass-through" option, while those looking to visit local destinations can stay on Gandy Boulevard.
“It is going to be incredibly functional and to that end, it will be a great relief to everyone that lives in this community around here and has looked for transportation solution to the congestion problems that we have seen in the Westshore, Gandy area," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said on opening day.
According to officials, the extension will cut what is normally a 15 to 30 minute commute down Gandy Boulevard during heavy traffic down to about two minutes.
THEA also noted that the extension will split traffic for local trips from commuter trips, bring traffic away from the neighborhood, and clear challenges long presented by the Gandy corridor.
“This project shows our willingness to embrace innovative designs and technology to provide expressway solutions that reduce impact and optimize benefits," Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) Executive Director and CEO Joseph Waggoner said.
Commuters heading to Pinellas will find a new ramp onto the extension and will no longer have to exit at Gandy. For those coming from South Tampa or MacDill Air Force Base, there will be additional on-ramps serving both directions for drivers heading north or south on Dale Mabry.
But to get to this day, Waggoner says it took a long line of support to carry out THEA's mission, dating back to former City of Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and following through to Castor.
It also meant working with the community to ensure that businesses on the Gandy corridor were not negatively impacted through door-to-door campaigns and other initiatives.
“We are so, so very fortunate to reside in the Tampa Bay area where everyone works so closely together, works collaboratively to get these large projects done," Castor added.
In the end, THEA says the Selmon Extension's goal is to enhance the community's quality of life and economy while providing a safe, reliable and innovative transportation solution.
Anyone looking to take the extension will be charged $0.95 if they have a SunPass, or $1.31 if they use Toll-By-Plate billing.
A check for $2 million was presented to the City of Tampa on the roadway's opening day to rebuild the parks around Gandy Boulevard that were used as staging areas during construction.
Toll revenues and bonds will fully fund the Selmon West Extension without the use of taxpayer dollars, according to THEA.
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