Gandy Freeway

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The Gandy Freeway is a limited access freeway that is currently under construction in Pinellas County, Florida. The freeway portion will run from just east of 4th St to just west of the I-275 interchange. Construction of the freeway began in February 2014 and is slated to be completed in 2017.

History[edit]

Originally conceived as a limited access link from South Tampa to Indian Shores during the 1960s and 70s; much of the Gandy Freeway was either shelved or out right cancelled. Sections east of US 19 and west of the Gandy Bridge were put on hold indefinitely due to lack of funds, while sections west of US 19 were cancelled. If fully built, the freeway would have provided a faster, signal-free drive between Tampa and the Gulf Beaches.

Original aspirations[edit]

The Gandy Freeway has been in planning books for decades, with a roughly 12.6 miles (20.3 km) stretch between a proposed connection to the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa, and US 19 (or somewhere westward). Due to the low likelihood of the Hillsborough County portion being constructed, and increasing urbanization of Pinellas Park, the freeway was ultimately shelved (with portions west of US 19 being cancelled). Remains of the original freeway can be seen in the Gandy Blvd interchange at I-275 (which lacks several ramps that were originally planned to be built), the separated grade diamond interchange at US 19 with Gandy Blvd as limited access, and the very wide right-of-way preserved along Gandy Boulevard east of I-275.

Section between I-275 and 4th St[edit]

After being shelved for decades, largely due to a lack of funding, the Gandy Freeway section from just east of 4th St N to the I-275 interchange is finally being built at a cost of $83 million. This project comprises a six-lane elevated highway, with overpasses at 4th St N/Roosevelt Blvd, 9th St N (also known as MLK St N), and 94th Ave N. A four lane frontage road system will parallel the elevated structures.[1] In recent years, the Florida Department of Transportation has seen this particular project as an increasing priority for relieving congestion along the corridor, which is why the project was fast-tracked for construction in recent years.[2]

I-275 interchange[edit]

The Gandy Blvd interchange with I-275 is technically incomplete, lacking a free-flowing flyover from northbound I-275 to westbound Gandy. Originally, the interchange was also without a ramp from eastbound Gandy to southbound I-275 (this ramp was constructed in 1981). It is currently unclear if a free-flowing ramp will be constructed from northbound I-275 to westbound Gandy.

Section between US 19 and I-275[edit]

Plans were also in the works to build an overpass at the intersection of Gandy Blvd and Grand Ave, but those plans were cancelled due to community opposition.[3]

January 2015 Tanker Incident[edit]

On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, a fuel tanker traveling westbound on Gandy Blvd collided with a utility truck traveling southbound on Roosevelt Blvd. Fuel from the tanker leaked and ignited, causing a huge fireball of flames to erupt. Fire crews from multiple departments; including Pinellas Park, Largo, Seminole, St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg-Cleawater International Airport, responded to the incident, and it took well over an hour for the fire to be extinguished. Both drivers were transported to area hospitals; with the driver of the tanker truck suffering second and third-degree burns throughout most of his body. The driver of the utility truck suffered lacerations and fractures.

The severity of the incident has caused environmental concerns, as fuel seeped about four feet into the ground around and beneath the damaged roadway. Flames from the fire also charred the retaining wall that will eventually carry westbound traffic over 4th St and Roosevelt Blvd. The Florida Department of Transportation is currently assessing the full extent of the damage, but has indicated that the ongoing construction project could be delayed if the retaining wall is damaged to the point to where it will have to be partially rebuilt.[4][5][6]

References[edit]

External links[edit]