NEW TAMPA — The east-west expressway is dead. But its companion bridge is still alive, dangling like a door hinge on transportation maps.
So Tuesday, City Council member Joseph Caetano has planned a public meeting on Tampa's proposal to build a $22-million bridge spanning Interstate 75. It's set for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in the media center of Freedom High School, 17410 Commerce Park Blvd.
For 20 years, the bridge connecting the West Meadows subdivision to Tampa Palms was envisioned as a vital accessory to the east-west expressway. But it has a murky future now that the toll expressway has been shelved.
When planned with the expressway, it would have created a high-speed bypass on the north side of Tampa Palms, connecting to I-275. The expressway died in June, cited as being too expensive.
The bridge is different. City officials have nearly all of the $22-million it's projected to cost, plus the permits to begin building it. "It's when, and not if," said Jeanne Dorzback, Tampa's director of transportation planning.
But in May, Mayor Pam Iorio suggested that the money could be switched to the four-laning of Cross Creek Boulevard's eastern half, projected at $19-million. The western half was widened two years ago.
Dorzback said the question of how to spend that money remains in the air at City Hall. She said planners years ago relied on the bridge when they mapped other road improvements and approved New Tampa developments, many now completed.
The bridge creates adversaries on either side of I-75.
On the north side, advocates of the project say the bridge and its approach roads would create a valuable alternative to jammed Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. But on the south, Tampa Palms residents say their neighborhood boulevard would be misused as a bypass highway.
Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.