TAMPA (WFLA) – South Tampa residents are calling for barrier walls to be installed along parts of the Selmon Expressway.
Families whose homes are right next to the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway say they’re seeing more traffic and tractor-trailers. 8 On Your Side has learned the traffic on the Selmon Expressway has increased by more than 60 percent in the past decade.
“We’re having to deal with an increase of noise and traffic,” said Melissa Crane. “Obviously – less safe environment for our children.”
Crane has lived near MacDill Avenue and El Prado Boulevard for more than a decade.
“We used to never see 18-wheelers,” she said.
“My worst fear is that a car crashes…into the house and kills children, innocent people, my family.”
8 On Your Side took neighbors’ concerns to the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA.)
Sue Chrzan, THEA’s director of public affairs and communications, says a study began in August to determine whether there needs to be more lanes, changes to ramps and also a potential barrier wall.
THEA wants to be as transparent and responsive as possible, according to Chrzan.
The first public meeting about the study is set to happen in May; however, Chrzan and her team are available to speak with residents about any and all concerns right now.
“We’ll come out and talk with you, I’ll bring my engineers,” said Chrzan.
In the past decade, there’s been a 62% increase in traffic on the Selmon Expressway.
“Are there more tractor-trailers there now than before?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“The tractor-trailer is about 3% of that and that has stayed steady,” said Chrzan, “but with that increase, there’s more tractor-trailers.”
Chrzan said she understands the safety concerns of neighbors.
“Of course we understand their concerns,” said Chrzan, “we understand that they perceive that there’s a safety issue and it’s a noise issue.”
If you would like to schedule a community meeting with THEA, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The study is expected to be completed in March of 2021. If the study determines a barrier wall is needed, Chrzan said it would be installed. The study involves data collection, engineering analysis, and environmental evaluations. Here’s more information from THEA:
“A PD&E study is a process developed by the Florida Department of Transportation to determine social, economic, natural and physical environmental impacts association with a proposed transportation improvement project. The process follows procedures set forth in federal and state laws and regulation. It is made up of several components including:
- Data collection involves researching and documenting items such as
- Existing roadway characteristics
- Traffic data
- Land use designations
- Drainage patterns
- Natural physical conditions
- Noise and safety features
- Social environmental conditions
- Engineering Analysis/Concept Development which involves developing concepts that meet the project objective in an environmentally responsible, socially acceptable and cost feasible manner
- Environmental Evaluations occur prior to and in tandem with concept development. These evaluations include wildlife habitat, public lands, and wetland locations. This information helps develop concepts that minimize impacts to the natural environment
- Public involvement entails public meetings, stakeholder coordination and community outreach
The typical timeframe to do all of the above work is 18 months. Some PD&E studies run longer.
During the noise analysis, we identify noise-sensitive areas closest to the roadway. Traffic engineers predict future traffic volumes a project may add. Then we enter existing traffic and forecasted traffic and natural and constructed features of the area into the Federal Highway Administration’s standard traffic noise model. This model determines future noise levels if a project is built in comparison to existing noise levels to calculate “noise impacts.”
To accurately predict each project’s traffic noise, we collect sample field measurements of existing noise to validate that the model is working accurately for each project area. When determining if a noise wall is a feasible and reasonable solution, we consider several variables. First, we evaluate if the noise wall will reduce future traffic noise for impacted areas. The governing standards for this determination is to achieve a benefit of a 5-decibel reduction for two impacted receptors and a 7-decibel reduction for one benefited receptor. Then we calculate the cost of building the noise wall. Next, we determine if it is possible to be constructed in the location that would provide the noise reduction benefit. Finally, we make sure that the property owners and residents actually want a noise wall.”
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