TAMPA — The people who live and work near Gandy Boulevard made it clear to transportation officials on Tuesday that they never have and never will want an elevated toll road in their neighborhood.
"You're new on this game," Sue Lyon told Joe Waggoner, hired last year as executive director of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. "People in this audience have been doing this 20 years or more."
Similar projects have been proposed and rejected, she said.
"You're going to have extreme resistance from us," she said.
Lyon was among the first speakers at a meeting organized by Mayor Pam Iorio so Gandy neighbors could share their concerns with the Expressway Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation.
The meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library.
Waggoner said his agency will be studying options to ease projected traffic increases on a road already clogged by commuters. But the authority's clear mission is to build toll roads, he said.
Questions focused on a 30-foot median being built from the Gandy Bridge to Dale Mabry Highway. Many said they fear the median, which narrows at three intersections, is intended to hold pillars for an elevated road.
"We're not simple citizens. We're senior citizens," said Ellen Nimon, who lives in Regency Cove, a retirement community on Gandy. "You prove to us you need a 30-foot median, and we'll quit our squawking."
One questioner asked Iorio about limiting development in the neighborhood to cut traffic and ease emergency evacuation.
Iorio said all of Tampa will continue to develop, but she has worked to steer most activity into urban areas such as downtown, East Tampa and West Tampa.
Mass transit also remains her focus, she said, and she hopes that in 2010, voters will approve a sales tax to pay for light rail.
The Gandy area, though, is not part of the first phase of the rail plan now under discussion, she said. As a first step, the Gandy area could have bus rapid transit to connect to rail hubs, and might eventually have rail.