THEA’s Vital Role in Regional Transportation
Throughout the Tampa Bay region, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority is focused on improving mobility, safety and innovation. Its role in regional transportation is vast, and THEA operates four facilities as well as conducts Project Development & Environment (PD&E) studies to continue to increase transportation efficiency and multiple modalities. Together with government agencies such as the U.S. and Florida Departments of Transportation, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, and other key businesses and groups, THEA promotes safe, reliable and sustainable transportation services as it reinvests toll revenues back into the community.
THEA is mindful of serving the community to enhance the quality of life for those who work, live, and visit Tampa Bay. THEA’s innovative multimodal solutions address regional transportation needs through its facilities and cutting-edge initiatives. Each aspect has its role in increasing economic development and regional connectivity as the movement of people and goods is improved. This includes Vision Zero implementation to reduce accidents and neighborhood enhancements to make each area of THEA’s footprint more beautiful, environmentally friendly and reflective of the unique communities we serve.
In 2021, the Lee Roy Selmon West Extension launched and now provides a critical connection for travelers from Pinellas County to Brandon in Hillsborough County, and vice versa. This connection alleviates more than 35% of traffic off Gandy Boulevard by using the Selmon Extension for a direct connection, whereas others can use Gandy Boulevard for local destinations. The West Extension also provides a critical hurricane evacuation route for the 1.3-plus million residents and visitors in Pinellas County and nearby areas. Reduced congestion and delays equal the better transport of people, goods, and services on this award-winning route. Buses, commercial vehicles, and emergency services now have better regional connectivity as well.
In downtown Tampa, the Meridian Avenue facility provides essential entrance and exit points to the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway’s Reversible Express Lanes (REL). By connecting the west and east side of downtown Tampa, commuters, residents and visitors can have better access to the heart of Tampa, Channelside, the Port of Tampa and Amalie Arena. For business, entertainment, sightseeing and beyond, THEA provides essential regional connectivity to reach these notable and up-and-coming areas that are the focus of international investment and the spotlight.
Under the Selmon Expressway, the Selmon Greenway supplies a 1.7-mile multi-use path for bicycling, walking, skating and other activities. For commuters and others wanting to access the amenities of downtown Tampa and other nearby regional points, the Greenway is a world-class urban trail that THEA, the City of Tampa and the Tampa Riverwalk collaborated on to benefit residents and visitors.
THEA is also a part of the connected vehicle (CV) pilot program, which implements cutting-edge technology in vehicles to test how these solutions can help vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, bus and streetcar safety. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure applications within the CV Pilot have the ability to revolutionize our regional transportation for the better, as well as help with other city, state, and national rollouts that can dramatically improve safety and mobility.
In tandem, numerous PD&E studies are underway to evaluate future, proposed improvements that will help increase regional connectivity and efficiency. The South Selmon PD&E study is focused on capacity improvements along the southernmost section of the Selmon Expressway. Roadway and ramp improvements that will primarily exist within the right-of-way are being evaluated from the eastern project limit of the Selmon West Extension to the beginning of the six-lane section near the overpass at Whiting Street. In particular, barrier walls are being proposed to prevent crossover accidents and median shoulders encouraged to allow for safer pullovers in emergencies.
The Whiting PD&E study is evaluating the proposal of a direct connection of Whiting Street to Meridian Avenue. This would involve extending Whiting and Washington Streets, as well as reconfiguring the eastbound on-ramp of the Selmon Expressway at Jefferson Street and the eastbound off-ramp at Florida Avenue and Channelside Drive. The goals are to improve traffic flow and safety for all transportation modes, as well as increase capacity on adjacent street networks and more connections in the region. As downtown Tampa and the Channel District exponentially grow, this area will increase as an east-west regional hotspot for business, entertainment and tourism.
The East Selmon PD&E study focuses on the area approximately 10 miles from Brorein Street in downtown Tampa to I-75 near Brandon. Ramp and roadway improvements are being analyzed and the capacity needs of this growing region are being taken into consideration through the forecasted year of 2045. Enhanced regional mobility is key as more people move to both downtown Tampa and the suburbs in East Hillsborough. The Nebraska Avenue PD&E study focuses on circulation throughout the downtown and Channel District to provide better accessibility, safety and flow throughout the Meridian Ultimate Nebraska Avenue area. Reducing morning commuter congestion, accounting for large-scale developments and supporting regional traffic demand will help all along the Selmon Expressway.
From owning and operating world-class facilities to being on the cutting edge of toll roads nationally and internationally, to implementing autonomous vehicle technologies and increasing community efforts, THEA is honored to continue its commitment to much-needed transportation improvements and giving people choices in their transportation options. Stay tuned as THEA increases regional connectivity for the benefit of all. From new opportunities to potentially provide transportation solutions throughout West Florida to collaborating with other valued stakeholders, THEA looks forward to shaping regional mobility for the greater good.