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Exit to Interstate 75 limits hurricane route

Every lane on the expressway could head east but get drivers only so far.

Published November 7, 2006


TAMPA - Pop quiz: A hurricane hurtles toward Tampa. One hundred sixty-thousand people get into their cars and head inland. How do you get the most people out of the city in the shortest time?

This was the kind of math laid out before the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority on Monday.

In May, the county's emergency management office had asked the authority to study how the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway could best be used as an evacuation route.

So a group of "stakeholders" - including emergency and transportation personnel from Tampa, Hillsborough County and the state, as well as residents and the authority's engineering consultants - convened to do just that.

The group looked at several options. Its members considered everything up to and including switching all of the Selmon Expressway's lanes to outbound traffic all the way to Brandon. In the end, it didn't matter how many lanes were available to carry fleeing residents, said Oliver R. Rodrigues, the Bayside Engineering project manager who helped coordinate the study.

It all came down to one limiting factor: There's only one way onto I-75 from the Selmon Expressway. And that exit has only one lane. No matter how many eastbound lanes are open, only so many people can exit the expressway at a time.

Because of that limiting factor, it made more sense to make the expressway eastbound from Gandy Boulevard to downtown and on the upper deck as far as Brandon, Rodrigues said.

The lower deck between Tampa and Brandon would remain two-way so emergency workers would have a quick route into the city to help stragglers.

The board approved the plan, which must also be adopted by the governor's office.

[Last modified November 7, 2006, 00:32:00]

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