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Falling concrete forces Crosstown lane closure

The commute from Brandon could be slowed, but officials expect repairs to be done Friday.

By MIKE BRASSFIELD
Published March 7, 2007


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TAMPA - A chunk of concrete that fell from an aging downtown section of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway has forced officials to close a lane for repairs.

That could lead to traffic backups for morning commuters from the Brandon area. One of two westbound lanes will be shut down until Friday along the stretch of roadway that passes over Jefferson Street.

Highway officials aren't sure why the 18-inch-by-18-inch piece of concrete dropped from the shoulder of the Crosstown onto an empty lot below. However, they say drivers shouldn't worry about the road's safety.

"We're not concerned. This happens occasionally ... the concrete will crack," said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. "This section of the expressway was built in the early '80s. So it could be age, it could be weather. We don't know."

The incident was unrelated to previous problems on the toll road's reversible lanes between Brandon and Tampa, which opened in July. Part of that road collapsed as it was being built in 2004 when a support column sank. Workers had to strengthen 165 columns before the elevated lanes were deemed to be safe.

On the expressway downtown, a Transportation Department worker noticed the missing chunk of concrete Monday while driving the road. The department monitors the Crosstown's bridges as part of a maintenance agreement with the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

"The bridges are inspected on a regular basis," said Ben Muns, the Expressway Authority's chief engineer. "There's no fear for anywhere else on the road at this point."

To repair the hole, workers have torn out two concrete panels of roadway, each 8 feet long. They'll pour replacement sections by Friday, the department said.

The Expressway's downtown bridges - between Florida Avenue and 14th Street, and between 22nd Street and Maydell Drive - were built in the 1980s with a construction technique no longer used in Florida, Muns said.

Workers would piece together a bottom layer of prefabricated concrete slabs, then add reinforcing steel and pour a top layer of concrete, he said. It has since been discovered that traffic vibrations can separate those layers, letting water seep in and leading to deterioration.

The Transportation Department is scheduled to replace the concrete on roughly a mile-long section downtown in 2009-2010, at an estimated cost of $72-million.

Muns, who drove the Crosstown on Tuesday, thinks the lane closure will go smoothly.

"People are paying attention to the signs about the lane closure," he said. "I thought traffic was moving quite well through the area."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at 813 226-3435 or brassfield@sptimes.com.

 

[Last modified March 7, 2007, 06:20:32]


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