Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority
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Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority
The Authority owns the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa as well as two non-tolled feeder roads - Brandon Parkway in Brandon and Meridian Avenue in Tampa. Additionally, THEA owns and operates the Selmon Greenway, a multipurpose recreational pathway running beneath and alongside the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.
THEA was established by statute in 1963 (pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 348.0001 et seq.) but did not being operations until 1973. THEA was established as a way to bring roadway infrastructure projects online sooner than with conventional department of transportation funding.
THEA originally planned the neighboring Veteran's Expressway.
The state legislature has attempted to shut down THEA on numerous occasions during its history and transfer ownership to the Florida's Turnpike Enterprise. The most recent attempt occurred in March, 2011 when the legislature attempted to pass a bill that would eliminate THEA, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, and Mid-Bay Bridge Authority ostensibly to save the state money. The plan was later abandoned when the state's budget was written .
Since its establishment, THEA has been responsible for development of numerous roadway projects in Hillsborough County.
- 1970s-1980s: THEA designed and built the original South Crosstown Expressway in 1974 (5 miles in length) and extended it in 1979 and 1985. By 1986, the Crosstown Expressway totaled 15 miles in length and connected South Tampa to Downtown Tampa and east to Interstate 75.
- 1980s: During the early 1980s, THEA planned, designed and began purchasing right-of-way for construction of the Veterans Expressway project. The project was eventually constructed and is now operated by the Florida's Turnpike Enterprise.
- 1996: THEA began planning the Brandon feeder roads which eventually became the Brandon Parkway, a 3.5-mile system of non-tolled feeder and circulation roads in eastern Hillsborough County. Construction of this project was completed in 2004. In addition to providing much needed capacity and access, the roadway also features a heavily landscaped park-like setting with urban architecture and a recreational trail.
- 1998-2006: THEA began planning the Reversible Express Lanes project, a ten-mile long set of reversible lanes from Brandon to downtown Tampa, most of which is constructed on a concrete segmental bridge in the Expressway median. Designed to save the expressway corridor for future transportation needs, the bridge was completed in 2006 and is now in operation. The project ran one year behind schedule because of an incident related to a foundation design flaw that resulted in the collapse of a bridge section during construction. The Authority settled a lawsuit with URS Corporation for $65 million for design and construction management issues related to the incident.
- 2000-present: THEA (along with FDOT and Florida's Turnpike) began planning for what is now known as the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector, an innovative, elevated route that would safely channel truck cargo traffic from I-4 to the Port of Tampa. Construction of the Connector has begun and was scheduled to be completed in late 2013. UPDATE: The connector was completed in 2013 and opened January 3, 2014.
- 2005-present: In cooperation with the City of Tampa, the Expressway Authority advertised for private concessionaires to construct the East-West Road (a City project) from New Tampa to I-275. The East-West Road is actually the remnants of the failed Lutz Expressway, which was originally part of the Northwest Hillsborough Expressway. In 2007, this project was deemed too costly to proceed.
- March 2006: The Expressway Authority opens the Meridian Gateway project into the Channel District of Downtown Tampa. This $50 Million construction of a new boulevard into the City that includes unique urban architecture, street and pedestrian lighting and landscaping has become a catalyst for more than $1 Billion in new investment in the downtown urban core.
- May 2006: THEA restarted efforts on the beltway system to provide a much-needed bypass of downtown Tampa for many trips that are needlessly forced through the downtown area by the current roadway system. The beltway would also provide service to the extremely large suburban areas that already exist on the periphery of the City as well as the 400,000 of new population that is already being planned for the next twenty years in Hillsborough County. In 2007, this project was tabled.
- July 2006 - August 2006: The Reversible Express Lanes opened to traffic for the first time.
- November 1, 2006: The Florida Turnpike Enterprise, in cooperation with THEA, began a new toll program called Pay-by-Plate. The program is designed to allow non-transponder customers to use the Reversible Express Lanes, without having to purchase a SunPass. The program uses a network of high resolution cameras along the expressway to create snapshots of a license plate. Commuters who sign up for the pre-paid program have the toll deducted from their account. This program is not currently being offered by the Expressway.
- November 13, 2006: THEA interim director, Ralph Mervine resigns amid harsh controversy.
- July 10, 2007: Joseph C. Waggoner Jr. is chosen as the new executive director of THEA. Waggoner was previously the Maryland Transportation Authority's planning and development chief.
- July 28, 2008: THEA unveils a brand new logo for the Selmon Expressway, which is slated to replace all existing logos along the thoroughfare.
- November 2009: Work begins on the I-4/Selmon Connector highway between the Selmon Expressway and I-4.
- Spring 2010: THEA announced that it will end manned toll collection on the Selmon Expressway and transition over to an open-road tolling system on the entire thoroughfare. Customers drive on the Expressway and pass under gantries that hold the tolling equipment. If a customer does not have a SunPass transponder, the Expressway Authority bundles the tolls and sends the customer a monthly bill.
- January 2014: The I-4/Selmon Connector highway between the Selmon Expressway and I-4 opened January 3, 2014 to traffic.
The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway is currently the only expressway THEA owns and operates.