TAMPA — After years of contentious debate, forums and petitions, Hillsborough County transportation officials are hearing some positive feedback on the Gandy connector plan.
In a recent survey about the proposal, 54 percent of people responding said they liked the idea of the elevated toll road.
The 1.6-mile roadway would connect the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge.
Since it first was suggested in the 1990s, the proposed 30-foot-high roadway has been opposed by residents and business owners in the area. The county Metropolitan Planning Organization has shelved the plan more than once because of those objections.
At a meeting Tuesday, the transportation organization’s policy committee will discuss the results of the survey, which was sent to about 9,300 property and business owners within one mile of the proposed connection. The committee has reviewed data and information since the MPO’s board recently considered removing the extension from the it’s long-range transportation plan.
Beth Alden, assistant executive director of the MPO, said the message has been “heard loud and clear” in the past that residents of that area don’t want the new road. She said the board wanted more information about the project as it explores options to accommodate anticipated traffic growth in the Gandy area.
“I think it shows that there is another side to this conversation,” she said about the survey results.
The survey included an artist’s rendering of the proposed overhead road and asked: “Does this look like a good idea?” The drawing showed minimal traffic on Gandy Boulevard and a woman pushing a stroller along a wide sidewalk.
Survey-takers were asked to text their “yes” or “no” answer to a number listed in the pamphlet. After that, the survey said, they would be prompted to answer four follow-up questions. People also could respond online or by telephone.
Most of those responding to the survey indicated they thought the raised roadway looked like a good idea. Forty-six percent of the people indicated it did not.
Most of the people surveyed also said traffic is a problem along Gandy Boulevard and an elevated toll road — rather than widening Gandy or adding a parallel bypass road — is the best way to reduce traffic. Most of the people who voted against the connector said they don’t want any change to Gandy Boulevard.
Only about 10 percent of the people who received the survey responded to its five questions, but Alden said the 888 responses provided more feedback than the MPO would have received at another public forum on the matter.
Al Steenson, president of the Gandy/Sun Bay South Civic Association, said he was disappointed with the survey’s results. He sent emails to other neighborhood associations and printed the survey information to distribute in local businesses, urging people to respond to it.
He called the overall results “very suspect,” and said the rendering of the roadway in the survey was unrealistic. In past surveys, he said, neighbors and business owners consistently have been about 75 percent against the idea.
“We don’t need that thing,” he said.
Jerry Frankhouser, president of the Bayside West Neighborhood Association, said he also was shocked by the survey results. Residents in his neighborhood, just north of Gandy Boulevard, also always have spoken against the project.
He said he remembers how elevated roads hindered businesses along U.S. 19 in Clearwater.
“We don’t want that here,” Frankhouser said. “This is downtown.”
Steenson said he will speak against the connector at Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s unwanted; it’s unneeded,” Steenson said.