THEA Moves Transportation and Vision Zero Forward by Joe Waggoner

On April 19, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) was proud to open our long-anticipated extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, located above the median of Gandy Boulevard in Tampa.  The Extension offers drivers a choice to either use Gandy Boulevard for local, neighborhood trips or to use the overpass for trips that have no destination in the Gandy corridor.

While the ribbon cutting of the Selmon Extension was the culmination of a truly great team effort to achieve a significant goal, it also exemplified the achievement of a goal far greater than the project itself. This greater goal was set by Hillsborough and state legislative leaders in 1963 when they created an agency that could plan, design, finance, operate, maintain, and preserve major transportation projects as an independent self-sustaining entity funded 100% by user-fees – not taxes. On April 19, THEA demonstrated how we execute our mission from end-to-end.

While major roadway enhancements, like the Selmon Extension, are what often comes to mind when one thinks of THEA and our mission, our work covers the spectrum of multi-modal transportation solutions. THEA has initiated and completed multiple project-specific enhancements aiming to reduce backups, improve safety and mobility, and increase pedestrian connectivity thus making Tampa a safer and smarter city to live in.

For example, the agency has added Vision Zero initiatives into its project plans for the south Selmon ramp to Euclid Avenue improvements. This includes adding two left-turn lanes to reduce backups and help with traffic flow, adding two new traffic signals to improve safety and mobility, providing a new crosswalk and pedestrian signal at the Lynwood Avenue intersection to improve pedestrian circulation, and adding dedicated bike lane markings and 735 feet of sidewalk on the north side of Euclid Avenue to improve pedestrian connectivity.

These improvements will reduce total projected crashes by 17%, property damage crashes by 18%, injury type crashes by 22%, and multiple vehicle crashes by 29%.

These project improvements are only a few examples of how THEA provides, operates, and funds comprehensive multi-modal solutions. THEA was also the first transportation agency to implement all-electronic tolling, furthering Vision Zero goals by helping to maintain adequate traffic flows on the expressway which keep cars off neighborhood roads like Bayshore and Bay to Bay Boulevards.  We continue to strive toward the goal of reducing transportation fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable mobility for all Tampa Bay residents.

Current projections anticipate 700,000 new residents by 2045 in Hillsborough County. Our region will need innovative, safe, and financially sustainable multi-modal transportation solutions to accommodate that growth.  THEA is well-positioned and grateful for the opportunity, to serve our community and keep the Tampa Bay region moving forward.

Joe Waggoner is President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA).