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Tampa traffic riding on concrete jungle gym

Do you ever get the feeling as you drive around our fair hamlet that Tampa is a place where concrete goes to die?

Really, rarely has so much mud been poured all the better to get us from Point A to, well Point A ½.

Take a spin on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway and you have to wonder if the late football great had a clause in his will asking if it might be possible to rename his road after, say, the late Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse, who was more well-known for being associated with laughingstock embarrassments.

Selmon deserved better than an expressway with his name on it that is transportation's answer to Easter Island meets a Rube Goldberg machine.

A few days ago, the Florida Department of Transportation announced that the $395 million connector linking Interstate 4 with the Selmon would be delayed. Well, what did you expect for a lousy, crummy $395 million? The Yellow Brick Road?

It appears workers on the connector have run into some glitches like buried debris, abandoned utility lines and unanticipated trash. As well, workers have discovered they must now dig even deeper than they thought to find suitable bedrock to support concrete footings for the project.

In short, this is a classic Tampa transportation project — miles to go before we weep.

The connector kerfuffle is only the latest of a long, historic litany of the greater Tampa Bay community's inability to move people around in such a way that it doesn't start to look like the panicked mob sequences in Independence Day.

For decades, Tampa ran a monorail from Harbour Island to the mainland — all of about a quarter-mile, without including a stop at the Tampa Convention Center. This thing carried fewer passengers than the "Hindenburg II, Let's Try It Again" flight. Brilliant.

At the moment, the city operates a glorified amusement park ride trolley system from Channelside to Ybor City, which is great if you have four or five hours for lunch.

With great irritation we remember the infamous Malfunction Junction, where Interstate 275 and I-4 merged to create a massive traffic jam. The nexus was reconfigured years ago and now can successfully handle even more backed-up traffic. This is progress?

Among local road-building boondoggles the Veterans Expressway makes Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere look like textbook urban planning.

Originally the Veterans cost about $500 million. But there was just an itsy-bitsy problem. During peak commuter times, for drivers traveling southbound, the haphazardly designed end-point of the road resulted in massive traffic black holes.

Not to worry. After another $370 million or so, the problem was more or less fixed, although if you are a newcomer to the city leaving Tampa International Airport, you need lightning-quick reflexes to read the signs. If you're not careful, instead of heading to Clearwater, you could very well wind up in Hernando County.

And last, there is the other end of the Selmon at Gandy Boulevard, which designers decided to end about 2 miles short of the Gandy Bridge into St. Petersburg leading to — all together now — backups, which sort of defeats the meaning of the word expressway.

Oh, almost forgot: The elevated lanes of the Selmon, which included in the original design plans for giant nets to capture errant wrong-way cars.

If you are new to our fair village, you are probably rolling your eyes in disbelief. For the rest of us well, of course that only made sense — nets for crazy people. This is Tampa, after all.

Tampa traffic riding on concrete jungle gym 09/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:31am]
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