TAMPA, Fla. — Starting this week, expect to see some big changes coming to the Selmon Expressway. Construction workers will start putting in a center median wall which will run from the Hillsborough River to the new Gandy Overpass.
After a series of crossover, head-on accidents, the expressway is getting a concrete safety barrier which will run the entire length of the five-mile stretch between Downtown Tampa and Gandy Boulevard.
“It’s basically a safety issue,” said Sue Chrzan, spokesperson for the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. “We’ve had a lot of crossover accidents in the last couple of years. A couple of them really bad. Fatalities.”
On Sunday night, workers will start adding a temporary outside lane to give construction crews room to work on the inside lane. Building not just a wall, but paved shoulders in both directions.
“For people to pull off on if there is an emergency, flat tire, that sort of thing,” said Chrzan
For years, the toll road saw no head-on collisions. Then, starting in 2017, several occurred over a period of months. Those include a deadly wreck which took the lives of an entire family from Tampa. Luiz Felipak, his wife Rita, and their 8-year-old daughter, Giorgia.
Amber Perera, 31, the woman who was charged with driving under the influence in the wreck that killed the Felipak Family, pled guilty last week. She faces more than 90-years in prison. Sentencing is set for October 18th.
“If it prevents that from happening,” said a woman coming off the expressway exit ramp, “Then I would say yes that’s definitely a good idea.”
When the Gandy Boulevard overpass project is finished, we expect to see more drivers on the Selmon Expressway. So, the timing, they say, was right.
“This is just an opportunity get something done pretty quick and get this out there for the safety,” said Chrzan, “For both the barrier wall and the shoulders.”
“I think it will make driving a lot safer for some people,” said Jessica Driesse, who drives on the expressway regularly. “Especially at night, I’ve seen a lot of people drift in and out of lanes. And it’s just not safe.”
The Expressway Authority is already studying the possibility of expanding this same stretch of highway to three lanes in each direction. That project would likely include safety walls and sound barriers for neighbors whose homes already sit right against the road.
“Much better,” said a driver who lives in the neighborhood. “With the way people drive in Tampa? Absolutely.”
The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority says construction on the median barrier will not take place during rush hour. Most of it will occur overnight, with some work during the day when things aren’t quite so busy.
The project is expected to take about 10 months.
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