TAMPA (WFLA) – The highly anticipated opening of the Selmon West Extension is officially to drivers.
Local business owner Bill Robinson has owned Gandy Bait and Tackle since 1989 and says traffic noise had seemed louder than it’s ever been leaving him with some mixed feelings on the extension to the Expressway.
“There’s a lot more noise, echo, that kind of stuff but other than that I think it’s going to relive some of the traffic on Gandy,” said Robinson.
For years he and others attended community meetings where people voiced strong opposition to an extension of the expressway.
“The people on the south side didn’t want it through their back yards, understandable. No one wanted it through their front yard which is understandable,” said Robinson.
Some people thought the elevated toll lane for drivers traveling from Brandon to Pinellas County would destroy businesses along Gandy Boulevard.
Now that the new roadway is opened, Robinson isn’t worried about the impact it will have on his business.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt it, I really don’t. If you’re going fishing, you’re going fishing,” said Robinson.
The new roadway has been years in development and more than three years under construction with a cost of more than $230 million.
Those using SunPass will be charged $0.95 to use the extension. It costs $1.31 for Toll-By-Plate billing. The Selmon West Extension is fully funded by toll revenues and bonds instead of taxpayer dollars.
Kelly Flannery with the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce believes it will help her community.
“We’re excited, we’re seeing businesses open each and every week along the Gandy corridor. We think this is going to be a revitalization for this area as we continue to see new construction, new businesses, and new residents move into South Tampa and the South Gandy area,” said Flannery.
The new roadway opened just after noon on Monday and it didn’t take long for people to start using the new lanes. Many have expressed disappointment that after years of development and construction there is only one lane going east and one lane going west.
CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority Joe Waggoner insists the road will easily handle the needed capacity.
“That will be adequate for what we see in the near future. It’s one lane of expressway that can carry a lot of traffic. That one lane can carry more traffic than the two lanes below it easily,” said Waggoner who added that the lanes can also be reversed for hurricane evacuation, “We built this with an evacuation concept in mind where you can use both of the lanes that are up there in an outbound or an eastbound direction, so we can still do that.”
Laura Roake lives in South Tampa and served for years with the Gandy Civic association.
For many of those years, she was the lone voice on her board that favored the road. Now that it’s finally open, she’s happy.
“I think it looks great. I was really tickled that they let us choose the design,” said Roake.