TAMPA — The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority expects to know early next month if it can begin construction on a bike path beneath the Selmon Expressway elevated segment.
Spokeswoman Sue Chrzan said the authority has hired Ajax Paving to build the path. The Federal Highway Administration should approve the contract by the beginning of January, she said. Construction on the bike path could start in May or June.
The path, known as the Selmon Greenway, has been in the works for more than a decade. The 15-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path will link the Tampa Riverwalk, Channelside and Ybor City.
The greenway got $1.4 million in federal funds last year as part of the city’s $10.9 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation. The bulk of that money is paying for the final leg of the Tampa Riverwalk running beneath Kennedy Boulevard.
The greenway would begin at the western foot of the Brorein Street Bridge -- the northern end of Bayshore Boulevard -- and run east 1.7 miles either parallel to or beneath the expressway. It would claim several dozen parking spaces beneath the elevated roadway.
“The additional green space and connectivity this project lends will be a game-changer in activating that area of downtown,” said Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. “The Greenway will serve as a vital extension of the Tampa Riverwalk and Bayshore Boulevard for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists.”
The entire greenway could take two years to finish, according city documents.
Tampa routinely ranks among the worst cities in the country for pedestrian and cyclist deaths in traffic. Last year, 14 cyclists died in traffic in Hillsborough County, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Selmon greenway is part of a broader plan by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and county transportation planners to change that reputation by adding more bike lanes and pedestrian pathways through the city.
Buckhorn has signed a deal with two companies that jointly plan to begin operating a bike-share program on city streets early next year.