TAMPA — Commuting to downtown Tampa is about to get tougher for drivers on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
A Florida Department of Transportation project to replace the concrete deck and widen the road as it snakes through downtown will require an around-the-clock lane closure on the expressway's westbound side from Morgan Street to the on-ramp near Brorein Street.
The closure will start sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday and likely will affect morning commuters. Drivers will be forced either to exit the expressway or use the left lane while crews begin demolishing the expressway's outside portion to rebuild the deck, DOT spokesman John McShaffrey said.
The $65 million, two-year effort involves replacing the aging concrete surface between E 19th and Morgan streets and widening the highway to three lanes in each direction.
Downtown commuters and others started feeling the project's effects Monday, when the city closed some parking lots under the expressway so work crews could prepare for demolition.
Lots 2 through 5, as well as Surface Lot South at 853 E Whiting Street, were closed. The city's parking department is urging drivers to use the remaining lots between S Florida Avenue and S Ashley Drive or parking garages.
About 370 parking spots, roughly half the spaces under the expressway, were taken out of service, affecting both commuters and St. Pete Times Forum visitors.
Visitors will get a taste of the new parking limitations Saturday when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra holds shows at 3 at 8 p.m.
"The last time, the early show ran long. Folks coming in for second show were conflicting with folks leaving the show and it created problems," said Irv Lee, the city's director of maintenance and operations.
Officials also are concerned about graduation ceremonies for the University of South Florida and the 2012 Republican National Convention, both being held at the Times Forum.
Parking will be limited for the convention, but the DOT has told its contractor, Granite Construction, to make parking available where possible under the expressway. Also, road work will stop during the convention.