TAMPA — Drivers can expect more delays this summer as a two-year project to add more lanes to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway gets under way.
The $110 million project, set to start in August, will add a third lane in each direction to the older section of the expressway between Florida Avenue and 21st Street in downtown Tampa.
Motorists already weary of delays because of construction from the Interstate 4 connector project, which continues until 2013, will have one more reason to gripe. The widening won't shut down the expressway, but it will trigger intermittent lane closures in each direction as drivers approach downtown.
The alternative, though, is a potentially bigger headache down the road.
Sue Chrzan, spokeswoman for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, said the Department of Transportation already was planning to replace the crumbling concrete surface on the expressway's viaduct downtown.
Seizing on an opportunity, the authority proposed combining that project with a widening, noting that the number of yearly toll transactions is estimated to increase from 31 million last year to 46 million in 2020, partly because the new connector between the expressway and I-4 will funnel more drivers into downtown.
"We're already inconveniencing (motorists), and if you know the road is going to be failing in 10 years and you didn't do anything about it when you had the chance, then you're creating a greater inconvenience to motorists," Chrzan said.
Both projects — the I-4 connector and downtown widening — would wrap up at about the same time in 2013, she said.
The widening project involves adding piers to hold up the extra lanes, DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said.
The old concrete deck panels would be torn out and replaced with new precast panels. Engineers budgeted the replacement work a few years ago after noticing cracks and chunks of loose concrete.
The $110 million project's exact funding breakdown is still being worked out. The authority has committed $57 million, but notes that a bill in Tallahassee could dissolve the authority and hand over its bonding capacity and assets and liabilities to Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, the state agency that operates the turnpike.
Chrzan said the authority is committed to the project, but uncertainty over the authority's future could make bond investors hesitant.
Whether or not the authority is absorbed into Turnpike Enterprise, the deck replacement and widening will proceed, Carson, the DOT spokeswoman, said.
A takeover of the authority would simply shift the responsibility for paying the bond investors to the enterprise.