Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway

Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway

Infobox road
state=FL
type=toll
route=618
alternate_name=Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway
length_mi=15
length_km=24
established=1976
direction_a=West
direction_b=East
starting_terminus= "(express)"
junction=
ending_terminus= "(express)"
previous_type=FL
previous_route=616
next_type=FL
next_route=656

The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway is a fifteen-mile limited access toll road in Hillsborough County, Florida, It connects the bedroom community of Brandon with Downtown Tampa and the southern Tampa peninsula, near MacDill Air Force Base. The expressway was named after famed and respected football player and local hero Lee Roy Selmon in 1999.

The expressway was supposed to be part of a multi-expressway system that failed in the 1970s due to heavy local opposition and financial burdens. The original designation for the expressway was State Road 449, but was switched to State Road 618, which remained a secret designation until the early 2000s, when it began popping up on maps and atlases.

In 2004, a portion of an elevated bridge, aimed at increasing capacity along the expressway during rush hour, collapsed. The incident sent shockwaves throughout the Tampa Bay area and quickly eroded the public's trust in the construction of the bridge and furthermore, the local expressway authority that owns the tolled facility. The director of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, Pat McCue, was fired because of his role in the mess and his lack of engineering experience.Fact|date=September 2008 In addition, the authority itself nearly faced extinction by the Florida's Turnpike Enterprise [http://news.tbo.com/news/MGBL4QIYS0E.html] .

The Crosstown Expressway System

The Selmon Expressway originated from a killed expressway system called the Crosstown Expressway System. The expressways were planned during the 1950s, '60s and '70s. However, the system fizzled out due to financial burdens, land acquisition issues, and community revolts.

The South Crosstown Expressway

What is known today as the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway was originally called the "South Crosstown Expressway", which was originally designated as State Road 449. The original name can still be seen on many maps and atlases.

Original routings had the expressway north of its present route, beginning around Bay-to-Bay Blvd and following a CSX rail line to Cass St, and then cutting through central downtown, and ending around 50th St. In addition, there were plans to connect what is today Ashley Dr to the expressway. However, this plan was thwarted probably due to the development in downtown. Instead, the route was shifted south, taking the expressway through southern downtown.

Construction commenced on the South Crosstown Expressway in 1974, beginning around Gandy Blvd at Dale Mabry Hwy and traveling along a CSX rail corridor through Palma Ceia. The route then made an eastward turn at Platt St/Willow Ave as it snaked its way through historic Hyde Park. Construction ended with a 3/4 mile-long, six-lane viaduct that spanned the Hillsborough River in the southern portion of downtown and stopped at Florida Ave (Exit 6A). Stub ramps at the expressway's east end were built for easy extension of the route. The initial six miles of the South Crosstown Expressway opened in 1976.

Construction commenced on an extension in 1979 due to the immense population growth in Brandon and the horrendous amount of traffic on State Road 60 (Adamo Drive). The extension opened in 1981 and extended the downtown viaduct through the southern vicinity of Ybor City. The route continued through the Palm River area, closely parallel to State Road 60 for much of the extension's route, and terminated at a partial interchange with Faulkenburg Rd (Exit 14).

Construction of I-75 from Lutz to Hialeah in the late 1980s connected a trumpet interchange with the expressway.

Logos

The logo for the South Crosstown Expressway has remained constant between the late 1970s and the early 2000s. Prior to 1978, the logo was a white "X" inside a white circle on a green field, that boasted the heading, "SOUTH CROSSTOWN EXPRESSWAY". This logo was eventually phased out by the late-1980s.

In the late 1970s, a contest was held to see which logo would be best for the expressway's image. Eventually a blue shield design with the image of pirate Jose Gaspar and the title, "TAMPA CROSSTOWN EXPRESSWAY", came out on top. The logos have been used on the expressway ever since.

In 2002, with the reversible express lanes, the Hillsborough Expressway Authority designed a more modern logo. The shield contains a white background with a bridge on the foreground. The title was changed to "Selmon Crosstown Expressway".

On July 29, 2008, the THCEA unvieled a new, more permanent logo that will eventually replace all previous logos along the expressway. This logo features the downtown Tampa skyline in purple with the expressway winding into it. The teal ribbon signifies the lower local lanes, while the yellow ribbon in between represents the upper express lanes [http://www.tampabay.com/multimedia/archive/00032/b2s_selmon072808_A_32243c.jpeg] . The title below the graphic reads "SELMON EXPRESSWAY".

Related Links

[http://www.southeastroads.com/florida600/fl-618_crosstown_expwy_shield.jpgJose Gaspar Crosstown Logo] As mentioned above, this shield was implemented in the 1970s and still can be seen along the expressway today, even though it is slowly being replaced.

[http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/article745144.ece The new Selmon Expressway logo] , unvieled on July 29, 2008, that will replace all previous signage along the expressway.

The West Crosstown Expressway

What was planned as the "West Crosstown Expressway" was designated as State Road 589 and would have connected the exit at Willow Ave (Exit 4) to the current Veterans Expressway interchange with I-275 and State Road 60 (Kennedy Boulevard). Public opposition thwarted the connection and as a result, the designation of State Road 449 was changed to State Road 618.

The North Crosstown Expressway

Little is known about this leg of the Crosstown System. However, it would have run from State Road 60 in Brandon to the Courtney Campbell Causeway, straddling Hillsborough Ave for a portion of the route. The plan was killed in the 1960s and 1970s due to high land acquisition costs, including environmentally sensitive land east of the Veterans Expressway.

The North Crosstown Expressway plan may have contributed to the construction of Houlihan's Stadium (where Raymond James Stadium is located today) and Tampa Bay Center Mall (both of which have been closed and demolished).

The North Crosstown Expressway plan resurfaced in 2002/2003 as part of THCEA's [http://www.tampa-xway.com/news_releases/BWwCOT-I4-75.pdf master plan] , which includes the proposed Tampa Bay Area Beltway, and was planned to connect US 301/I-75 to the Veterans Expressway. However, the proposed route would have been much shorter than its predecessor and would have straddled the Busch/Waters corridor rather than the MLK/Hillsborough corridor. At this time,when there is no word as to whether the new North Crosstown plan is still in the books.

Other connectors

FDOT and the THCEA have previously proposed several other connectors for the Selmon Crosstown Expressway in the past, all of which have failed due to financial burdens and community revolts.

Gandy Extension

A proposed link between the Selmon Expressway's current south terminus at Gandy Blvd and Dale Mabry Hwy and the Gandy Bridge has been the subject of fierce controversy ever since the expressway's inception. Extending the expressway would relieve congestion on now overcrowded Gandy Blvd, and allow an addition evacuation route during hurricanes. However, as the plans are continually brought up by FDOT and THCEA, local residents and business owners have continually struck down the idea, claiming that the thoroughfare will cause decreased property values and increased noise, destroy the ambiance of South Tampa, and keep customers away from local businesses.

Three different concepts have been proposed over the years, as described below:

North Connector

This alignment would have flanked the north side of Gandy Blvd, connecting the Selmon Expressway and Dale Mabry Hwy to the Gandy Bridge. Interchanges at Manhattan and WestShore would have been built as well. However, this would have also meant that dozens of homes and businesses would have been wiped out, sparking fierce opposition among the South Tampa community. Since the early 2000s, there have been no plans to bring this alignment back to the forefront.

outh Connector

This alignment is similar in nature to the North Connector. However its routing is different; extending the the Selmon along the CSX rail corridor that flanks Tyson Ave. This alignment would have called for much of the extension to be elevated due to the nature of the surrounding environment. Interchanges at Manhattan and WestShore would have been built as well. But with the North Connector, the South Connector also faced fierce opposition from the South Tampa community. In addition, FDOT declared in the early 2000s that the project would not be financially feasible due to high construction and land acquisition costs. In 2005, developers of the [http://www.legacyparktampa.com/ Legacy Park condo complex] bought up a tract of land between Manhattan and WestShore, on the south side of the CSX rail line. This same tract of land would have been necessary for the South Connector to be constructed. When another crucial area of land (the former Imperial Yacht basin) was bought up by condo developers (New Port) in 2005, the South Connector plan was basically killed off. There have been no intentions to bring this plan to the forefront either as of 2006.

Central Connector/Elevated Gandy Blvd

This alignment is the last viable option for the Selmon Expressway extension towards the Gandy Bridge. This plan would call for a two-lane elevated span through the median (which is under construction) of Gandy Blvd. The design would be similar to the Reversible Express Lanes that were constructed east of downtown. However, the South Tampa community continues to rally against even this plan and the future of this alignment is extremely unclear. In the meantime, FDOT is improving Gandy Blvd itself by raising the median, limiting/modifying turn points/lanes, and upgrading traffic signals. Some of this work is already complete.

A component connector to the Gandy proposal was rumored to connect the failed Gandy extension to Interstate 375 in St. Pete. However, the plan proved to be unpractical.

"Some information used in this section came from this article [http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/jul/13/me-selmon-extension-idea-revived/] ."

East Extension

At the eastern terminus, there was also a proposal to extend the Expressway beyond Interstate 75 to the Polk Parkway and eventually towards the east coast of Florida, replacing SR 60 as a primary east-west route. This extension was killed off by several community revolts in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Reversible Lanes Project

The reversible lanes project was originally envisioned in 1995 as an innovative idea to increase capacity along the Selmon Expressway from Downtown Tampa to Brandon without acquiring additional right-of-way. Instead, an elevated, three-lane bridge was built over the existing median of the expressway. Planning for the project began around 1995/1996, but final designs/planning were not made until the later 1990s.

Construction commenced in 2003 but was halted in 2004 due to a bridge section collapse. As a result of the collapse, the project was delayed for about a year.

In spring 2005, two realigned sections of the eastbound lanes opened. One section is between 22nd St and 39th St, the other between 78th St and I-75. The at-grade sections of the reversible lanes now follow the old alignments.

The Brandon Gateway section of the elevated bridge opened in November 2005 and gained an overwhelmingly positive input by commuters. Thus the bridge was kept open beyond January 2006 (when it was originally scheduled to close for more bridge work) during the evening rush hour.

On July 18, 2006 at 6 am, the reversible lanes opened to westbound morning traffic (only). Long lines were formed at the Brandon Gateway well in advance and many drivers were thrilled to see the bridge open. However, the scene from news helicopter snapshots told a different story on opening day. Only a handful of drivers actually ended up using the new bridge, compared to the number that was expected. These findings may be blamed partly on the lack of advance notification to commuters, the number of commuters who own a SunPass transponder, and an unrelated traffic incident on Ashley Drive in downtown. Many other questions were raised as a result of the low traffic volume along the reversible lanes.

The eastbound direction opened on August 29 at 3:30 pm. Many downtown commuters were thrilled to see the bridge open and took advantage of the route. Those who did not however, were stuck in rush hour backups.

A "Grand Opening" celebration was held on September 23. Festivities included a 5 and 10k run across the new bridge.

On November 1, 2006, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise began a pilot program with the THCEA, known as "Toll-by-Plate". This program allows occasional commuters to utilize the Reversible Express Lanes through a system of high resolution cameras (at the 78th St barrier checkpoint/gantry) which snap photos of license plates. The commuter is then sent a bill via mail. The THCEA reports that over 500 commuters have already signed up for the Toll-by-Plate program since its debut. The program's success so far may lead to future expansion to other tolled thoroughfares in Florida, such as the lower level of the Selmon Expressway, and the Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway [http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2007/5/9/247680.html?title=Toll-by-plate+off+to+fast+start] .

Operating hours

Effective: January 8, 2007.

*Weekdays
**Westbound (to Downtown): 6 am - 10 am.
**Transitional^: 10am - 3pm.
***Eastbound direction (Brandon Pkwy segment) opens at 10:30 am.
***Westbound direction (west of 78th St) closes at 1:30 pm.
**Eastbound (to Brandon): 3 pm - 4 am.

*Weekends
**Eastbound direction (to Brandon) ONLY^^: 3pm (Friday Afternoon) to 4am (Monday Morning)

^ "Denotes transitional operation of the reversible lanes bridge, where the segment between 78th St and downtown Tampa is westbound traffic and the Brandon Pkwy segment east of US 301 is eastbound traffic."

^^ "According to [http://www.tampa-xway.com/disclaimer.html THCEA's website] , the Reversible Lanes are continuously open in the eastbound direction from Friday afternoon to Monday morning."

Access points

*Westbound
**Brandon Gateway near Westfield Brandon.
**Selmon Expressway Ground Level just before 78th St.

*Eastbound
**Meridian Gateway in Downtown Tampa.
**Selmon Expressway Ground Level @ 34th St and just before US 301.

"Visit the [http://www.tampa-xway.com THCEA Website] for the latest updates."

The Interstate 4/State Road 618 Connector

See Interstate 4/Crosstown Expressway Connector.

Exit list

The entire route is in Hillsborough County.

Contra-flow Study

A study regarding a contra-flow plan for the Selmon during a large-scale evacuation is currently underway. [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/07/06/Hillsborough/Selmon_a_1_way_escape.shtml] The Hillsborough County EOC and the THCEA are planning out just how the expressway could be used as an evacuation route. The big limitation out of the plan is the I-75 trumpet interchange, which narrows to one lane on three of the four ramps to and from the interstate. It is because of this limitation that the original contra-flow plans were quashed [http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/sptimes/access/1159092491.html?dids=1159092491:1159092491&FMT=FT&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Nov+7%2C+2006&author=S.I.+ROSENBAUM&pub=St.+Petersburg+Times&edition=&startpage=6.B&desc=Exit+to+Interstate+75+limits+hurricane+route] . The current plan, if approved, is as follows.

*Selmon Expressway mainline from Gandy Blvd to Florida Ave: Would be one-way eastbound.
*Selmon Expressway mainline from Florida Ave to I-75: Would be two-way with westbound direction allowing first responders and other emergency personnel quick access to downtown.
*Selmon Expressway reversible express lanes: Would be one-way eastbound for the entire route.

Other Mishaps

There have been a couple of lesser known mishaps that occurred on the Selmon Expressway in recent years. In 2001, a city truck equipped with a hydraulic lift slammed into the 34th St overpass when the vehicle's lift was unknowingly raised. The accident crippled a support beam, which had to be replaced. [http://www.tbo.com/news/MGAY8XM3DQC.html] In 2005, a similar vehicle destroyed the overhead exit sign at Euclid Ave (Exit 2). It was over a month after the incident occurred that a replacement sign (and structure) were installed.Also, over the years there have been a few accidents that made headlines, where vehicles, traveling at high speeds, crashed into one of the toll plazas.

Misc.

*In 2004, the Hillsborough County Expressway Authority accelerated a planned toll hike from its original date in 2009 to 2007. The plan would increase the mainline toll plazas by 25 cents and raise the 22nd St Exit tolls to 75 cents. The toll hike took effect on January 1, 2007, with the hike for the 22nd St ramps going into effect in late June, 2006.

*The final cost of the Reversible Lanes Bridge (including mishap): $420 million and four years of construction.

References

*Information regarding the Crosstown Expressway System was compiled from these articles.
** [http://web.archive.org/web/20050406050102/www.bayciti.net/hrd/cncld/cncld.htm Cancelled Hillsborough County Freeways]

*Information regarding the collapse of the new reversible lanes bridge in 2004 was compiled from this article.
** [http://reports.tbo.com/reports/crosstown/ Crosstown Collapse Special Report]
*Information regarding the surprise opening of the reverable lanes were compiled from these reports.

t Petersburg Times article

* [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/07/17/Hillsborough/Crosstown_s_Brandon_l.shtml Crosstown's Brandon link opens Tuesday]

WTVT articles

* [http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=208076&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1 Crosstown's new span gets rave reviews]
* [http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=206170&version=3&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=3.2.1 Spic and Span: Crosstown set to open]
* [http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=204572&version=6&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1 Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines]

Bay News 9 Article

* [http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2006/7/18/169343.html?title=Good%20news%20for%20Hillsborough%20County%20commuters Good news for Hillsborough County commuters]

External links

* [http://www.sptimes.com/2002/12/04/TampaBay/Gandy_plans_on_hold__.shtml Gandy plans on hold, for now] St. Petersburg Times - December 4, 2002.
* [http://www.sptimes.com/2002/10/31/TampaBay/Another_Tampa_Bay_bri.shtml Another Tampa Bay Bridge?] St. Petersburg Times - October 31, 2002.
* [http://www.tampa-xway.com Hillsbrough County Expressway Authority Website] The Tampa expressway authority that owns Selmon-Crosstown Expressway.
* [http://www.mytbi.com/urs/content/Design/I4-CrosstownConnector/index.asp I-4/Crosstown Connector Project page] .
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20041025113941/web.mit.edu/spui/www/flsr/61x.html Florida Route Log(SR 618)]
* [http://www.southeastroads.com/fl-618.html SoutheastRoads.com] - Photos of the Selmon Expressway.


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