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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Despite positive survey, Gandy/expressway connector still on back burner

SOUTH TAMPA — Hillsborough County transportation officials won’t make any immediate decision about the proposed Gandy Connector.

At a meeting this week, the policy committee for the county’s transportation and planning organization — the panel includes county commissioners and Tampa city council members, among others — received a status report on the much-debated plan to connect the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge.

Since it first was suggested in the 1990s, many area residents and business owners have criticized the proposed 30-foot-high roadway. County planners have shelved the plan more than once because of those objections.

But in a recent survey commissioned by Hillsborough’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, about 54 percent of the 888 people who responded said they like the idea of an elevated toll road. Many neighbors and business owners along that stretch of Gandy Boulevard subsequently protested and questioned the survey’s results, maintaining the raised roadway would do more harm than good.

“It seems to me that the best thing to do right now is nothing,” said Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen, who represents South Tampa.

At Tuesday’s meeting, committee members stressed they only were seeking an update on the matter.

Cohen said there is no funding or plan to move forward with the connector. The committee just wanted to study whether the idea should remain on the MPO’s “wishful thinking,” long-term priority list, he said.

“It’s going to be a long time before there’s any money for this discussion,” Cohen said, adding that he doesn’t want people to worry about the issue right now.

County Commissioner Sandy Murman said no matter what the organization decides to do with the connector plan in the future, the board needs to work closely with nearby residents and business owners to develop a plan which satisfies all parties involved.

“If we truly wanted something to work,” she said, “we have to engage them completely.”

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Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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