South Tampa residents want barrier wall installed along parts of Selmon Expressway

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (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 tell 8 On Your Side Investigates that they’re seeing more traffic and tractor-trailers. Dozens of neighbors say they need more protection now.

“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. She and other neighbors say they’ve seen changes in recent months including an increase in traffic.

“We used to never see 18-wheelers,” she said.

Keith Steiner, who moved into the neighborhood 12 years ago, agreed.

“It’s constant,” said Steiner. “We should be able to feel safe. We just want to make sure that we’re represented and our concerns are taken into account.”

Neighbors say they want a barrier wall built to protect their homes and children.

“My worst fear is that a car crashes…into the house and kills children, innocent people, my family,” said Crane.

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.

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.

Neighbors say they can’t wait that long.

In an email, Chrzan said the study involves data collection, engineering analysis and environmental evaluations.

Investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi is sitting down with Chrzan next week to learn more about the study.

Here is part of Ms. Chrzan’s email to 8 On Your Side:

“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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