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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Selmon Connector changes everything for better

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Published:   |   Updated: January 2, 2014 at 12:26 PM

The Selmon Expressway Connector had the look of a new ride at Busch Gardens as its concrete twists and turns took shape over the last three years. I mean, it looked seriously cool and futuristic, rising to 92 feet over Ybor City and other locales to connect with Interstate 4.

At a cost of more than $500 million, though, this road better be a lot more than SheiKra with a SunPass. As one of the largest public-works projects in the country, it better be something we look back upon as a landmark that changed everything for the better.

Planners say it will be, now that the ribbon is cut and it’s just about ready to open for car and truck traffic. It’s the truck traffic that has drawn the most interest.

They say about 10,000 daily truck trips from the Port of Tampa that used to clog the streets of Ybor and along Adamo Drive will take advantage of this spidery-looking road. If the number is even close to that, the impact on Ybor will be immense.

Diverting that many heavy trucks to the connector will save untold wear on Ybor streets. If you have tried to drive through there much, you understand what the rumble of trucks and tankers headed to and from the port does to the general feel of the place. Removing such a large number of trucks from the city streets can’t help but improve things.

That’s the real benefit.

I did have to chuckle just a bit as cheerleaders said another reason the project was great is because truckers could load up at the port and not have to deal with a traffic signal until they got to Maine.

Someone should have hit the mute button, or even the delete key on that part of the stump speech. I’m thinking spending $500 million so trucks can avoid a few traffic lights might be extravagant even by government standards.

Keeping the big rigs away from local intersections is a plus, I’ll grant you – for local motorists though, much more than the truckers. I’ll be interested to see what this project does to traffic on Adamo as you get closer to downtown. I imagine it will help significantly.

And, of course, what major project near downtown Tampa would be complete without an obligatory reference to a new Rays’ baseball stadium? If the team is ever cleared to move to the Tampa side of the bay and chooses a downtown location, the connector is one more way to get traffic into and out of the area.

The connector has been considered essential by planners here for decades, as it pretty much could turn into a hub that connects to all parts of the area – including the airport, Gandy Bridge and Pinellas County. It could become a way for drivers to avoid the construction mess along Interstate 275 from downtown to the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Anything – repeat, ANYTHING – that helps more people get from Point A to Point B around here is a good thing. But to do that while clearing congestion from overstressed streets around Ybor and the surrounding area, well, that potentially brings changes that are years overdue.

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