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10 years -- and still no decision on Gandy

The so-called Gandy Connector proposal has never been popular. A workshop Thursday will present alternatives.

By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002

GANDY -- Bob Hart is fed up. For a decade now, he has been fighting an extension of Gandy Boulevard near the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Still, there is no resolution.

He has attended hearings and spoken to state road officials more times than he cares to remember.

Still nothing.

Add one more public hearing.

Thursday night, the Florida Department of Transportation will conduct a public workshop to present alternatives to the Gandy Connector. Hart, on the board of directors of the Gandy Civic Association, will be there. So will others.

The issue is a 11/2 mile stretch of highway east of the Gandy Bridge.

State road planners have pushed since the late 1980s to turn Gandy into a second expressway between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and Pinellas County officials have long embraced a speedy alternative to Interstate 275.

But South Tampa residents who live near Gandy Boulevard worry about the noise and the eyesore. The community of Gandy Gardens, a few hundred homes, would be most affected.

Residents want a simple solution: To widen the road to six lanes.

But Florida Department of Transportation officials say that isn't enough for the traffic flow.

Thursday, the agency will present its proposals:

Add an elevated four-lane highway to the lanes already on the ground. The elevated highway would connect Gandy Bridge to the Crosstown.

Build a bypass loop near Gandy Gardens and other neighborhoods.

The alternatives came from a study concluded two years ago, said Gabor Farkasfalvy, a project manager for the transportation department.

The bypass option isn't acceptable to some residents, who say it will chop up their neighborhood.

Nor does the elevated highway generate enthusiasm. It would plant huge columns in the ground and be an eyesore, Hart said.

Community activist Neil Cosentino -- who worked to saved the old Gandy Bridge (success) and advocated Tampa's 2012 Olympic Bid (failure) -- is also chiming in.

He will propose at the workshop a "cut and cover" alternative, which is basically like a glorified tunnel, with lanes going under and over.

"It all disappears under the ground," he said.

The decision will ultimately be made by the DOT, which plans another public hearing for December.

To speak out

A public workshop on the Gandy Connector will be held Thursday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 4100 S Manhattan Ave.

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