PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — FDOT is working to speed up travel times and make it much easier to get from Pinellas County across the bay into Tampa.
If you make the daily trek from Pinellas County into Hillsborough County, you know what a struggle it can be waiting through red lights…only to get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on one of the bridges to cross the bay.
Yet, relief is in sight. FDOT is now more than halfway finished with one of the biggest construction projects in Tampa Bay history: The Gateway Expressway.
Greg Deese, FDOT’s resident engineer says the project is coming along smoothly.
“In the last two years this project has really taken off,” he explained.
By late 2022, the project will connect US 19 to I-275 and the Bayside Bridge to I-275. It will give drivers a tolled option to commute several miles up and over dozens of traffic signals.
Although most of the work is on tolled lanes, FDOT expects all commuters to see a difference in travel times because hundreds of cars will take the tolled lanes leaving local roads less busy.
“It will certainly take traffic off Ulmerton, 118th, and Roosevelt so you’ll see an improvement even if you don’t directly take these tolled routes,” Deese added.
The project will also make it easier for drivers to get to St. Pete Clearwater International Airport, according to FDOT.
Yet, the end of the construction work can’t come soon enough for business owners like John Gavaghan.
“It’s been trying because of the traffic,” he explained.
The new 4-lane tollway is just 40 feet from the back of his business, Allied Fence of Tampa Bay. Gavaghan says construction is driving away around 40% of their walk-in counter sales.
“It’s been kind of a mess since they started but hopefully it’s gonna benefit us in the future. FDOT has been helpful to us during construction, we’re just anxious for it to wrap up,” he elaborated.
FDOT engineers say you can expect to see a lot more progress on the nearly $600 million project as they near completion in the next two years.
“It’s gonna be a great idea to get you where you need to go quicker and more efficiently but (until then) getting there is definitely a little bit of a struggle,” JC Jannarone, who works at Prime Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, just feet from the construction work along 118th Avenue added.
Deese says 250 construction workers will continue working 5-6 days a week, both day and night, until the project reaches completion.
“In the last quarter of the job we really do see a marked increase in actual things that people can see and get excited about and that will eventually relieve the traffic,” he elaborated.