Gandy Boulevard transportation projects under fire

07/29/08 Seán Kinane
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Gandy Boulevard is undergoing major renovation in South Tampa. This morning at the Jan Platt Library, Mayor Pam Iorio and other city and transportation officials listened to concerns of residents about those projects.

Citizens had three major concerns about future Gandy construction: the possibility of tolls, a 30-foot median, and an elevated portion of the road.

Joseph Waggoner, the new executive director of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA), asked people to join a new Project Advisory Group to study all ideas for Gandy.

“If after this process, we find that the preferred solution is not a toll feasible process, THEA will have to bow out. That solution would go to others to fund. It will take about, we estimate 10-12 months to go through this process.”

Jean Dorzback is Tampa’s chief of Planning and Project Management. She said the roads in the area around Gandy are currently near their average daily traffic capacity. But because of expected development, congestion will get even worse in the future. That’s even including several road projects that are in the planning stages, Dorzback said.

Those projects could cost $20 million, even though the city only takes in $200,000 per year from a transportation impact fee, Dorzback said. Some citizens suggested that a 30-foot median is being considered because it is required for an elevated boulevard. But Lee Royal, a community liaison with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), said that a large median is needed for safety.

Iorio noted the discontent of city residents to the proposed Gandy median.

Almost all of the discussion involved automobile traffic, but Iorio said part of the solution is for the city to invest in transit and smart growth. “Would light rail ever get down to the Gandy area? That’s not part of the initial process.”

Tampa resident Neil Cosentino suggested that an alternative to an elevated road could be an underground tunnel, like the one that passes under the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Several business owners said Gandy construction and the proposed median or elevated highway will hurt their businesses.

Jorge Tamargo, who owns Mr. Empanada on Gandy, went even further. “The construction started and we’re about to close. The traffic backs up from Westshore to Manhattan. … It’s not safe right now.”

One resident asked why the city did not do more to halt the uncontrolled growth that has led to overcrowded roads. Mayor Iorio replied that the city is taking steps to control growth, but the newspapers have not adequately covered it.

The current phase of Gandy construction is expected to be finished in October 2009.

To join the Project Advisory Group, call (813) 272-6740.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority - THEA

Gandy Project info from THEA

FDOT – Florida Department of Transportation

Pam Iorio

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