Today marks a huge milestone in Tampa Bay when it comes to the area’s highways and byways; the first anniversary of the opening of the Interstate 4/Selmon Expressway Connector!
The roughly one-mile elevated connector opened one year ago today, and a very foggy day it was too. But nonethless, it marked the beginning of the end of cargo traffic having to meander through historic Ybor City to reach Port Tampa Bay. The connector project was first conceived since the 1990s and began construction in 2010. Today, the highway sees more than 30,000 vehicles per day, with the projection of that growing to over 50,000 a day by 2035. About 90 percent of traffic using the connector comprises of personal vehicles, box trucks, and other single axle vehicles, though the Florida Department of Transportation expects the number of semi trucks and other multi-axle vehicles to rise over the next few years.
Even though, the highway is tolled, many people have chosen the connector for its time savings, and what a time savings it can be when trying to battle it out through the I-4/I-275 junction in the morning. In fact, this past fall, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) decided to reroute the morning trip for one of its limited stop bus routes from going through the downtown junction to the year-old connector in an effort to keep buses on time. Additionally, commuters needing a signal-free fast track from Brandon to Tampa International Airport can use the connector to bypass downtown streets. This particular commute is expected to speed up further once construction along I-275 through WestShore is completed in 2016.
Over the next several months, construction will take place along 22nd and 21st Streets in Ybor City, to narrow traffic lanes and create a more pedestrian friendly environment. Once this project is finished, FDOT will transfer control of these roadways to the City of Tampa, which plans to out right ban all cargo truck traffic along the routes.