With all of the discussion about toll roads these days, it really shouldn’t be surprising that some projects that were previously frowned upon are getting a second look. While I generally dislike the increasing trend of toll road construction here in Florida, I also realize that toll roads aren’t going away. In this blog series – which comprises of four parts – I will be examining two projects (one a toll road, and the other a freeway) that are aimed at relieving congestion along one of Tampa Bay’s major thoroughfares – Gandy Blvd.
Gandy Blvd currently stretches from Bayshore Blvd in South Tampa to US 19 in Pinellas Park. From US 19, the roadway continues westward as Park Blvd and terminates in Indian Shores. The roadway (Gandy Blvd) was named after businessman and developer George Shepard Gandy, whose namesake is also on the bridge that he helped design and build during the early 1900s – with the original bridge opening in 1924. Since the 1920s, the South Tampa has seen a monumental suburban boom as Tampa grew outward from its downtown core. By the 1960s, nearly every open void in South Tampa was filled in with suburban style homes and businesses.
Today, Gandy Blvd is swamped with commercial businesses and some residential complexes, and unfortunately is seeing tons of rush hour congestion because of this and the route’s crucial link between the Gulf Coast Beaches and Downtown Tampa. The congestion along Gandy is now so bad that traffic sometimes backs up at key intersections during the midday on weekdays (such as WestShore Blvd and Manhattan Ave). Weekends have largely been spared, but if there is an incident on I-275, commuters will flock to the alternative thoroughfares to avoid the mess on the interstates.
Many plans have been brought up in the past to help relieve congestion along Gandy, but all up until now have fizzled out due in large part to community opposition. The first of these projects was the original South Crosstown Expressway, known today as the Selmon Expressway. The expressway’s original plans had the western terminus just shy of the Gandy Bridge on the Hillsborough side and then snaking down to an east-west CSX rail corridor and then northeastward up another rail line to Downtown Tampa. Heavy community opposition killed off these plans and that is why the expressway’s western end is at Gandy Blvd and Dale Mabry Hwy. Community opposition also played a role in the cancellation of several western extensions of the expressway that were brought upon between the 1980s and the late 2000s. Community opposition also helped kill plans for a cross-county expressway in Pinellas using the Gandy/Park Corridor.
I will be taking a closer look at the latest plan to elevate Gandy Blvd on the South Tampa side in my next installment. Then, I will take a look at the Gandy Bridge itself, followed by what is being done to Gandy on the Pinellas side. I hope that you will stay tuned for those posts.
Coming Soon! The Travel Log by HARTride 2012 Facebook Group!