Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Crosstown shows its age
The 30-year-old toll road needs repairs, updates and additions. Headaches to follow.
By MIKE BRASSFIELD, Times Staff Writer
Published November 4, 2007
TAMPA - Now that it's 30 years old, the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway is showing its age. That's about to cause rush-hour traffic delays, and maybe a shakeup in long-term plans for the road.
Starting Monday night and continuing for eight months, workers will be closing traffic lanes along a mile-and-a-half stretch of the toll road midway between downtown Tampa and Brandon. They have to replace outdated concrete slabs on six overpasses where the expressway crosses U.S. 41, Maydell Drive and a railroad line.
For the next few weeks, the eastbound inside lane will be blocked. Soon they'll shut down a westbound lane, too. The elevated reversible lanes won't be affected, but drivers on the four lower lanes will inevitably run into morning and evening slowdowns near the Crosstown's eastern toll plaza.
"We apologize and ask for their patience. We'll do this as quickly as we can," said Joe Waggoner, executive director of the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority. "This is necessary work. Our first order of business is to preserve the road we have."
To make traffic run smoother, the expressway will hand out flyers at toll plazas suggesting drivers hop on the increasingly popular elevated lanes. The absence of cash toll booths on those lanes means they'll need a SunPass or a toll-by-plate account.
"We're hoping we can move some traffic to the upper deck to minimize the impact," said expressway spokeswoman Sue Chrzan.
All of this is just a warmup for a much bigger headache scheduled for 2010: replacing the concrete surface of a mile-long elevated section of the expressway that snakes through downtown. Traffic lanes there will be closed for longer periods, though the road will stay open. Steven L. Reich, former director of the Expressway Authority, once described it as "18 months of nightmare."
That $72-million project will be such a pain, in fact, that officials are considering adding two more lanes to that part of the expressway years earlier than scheduled. That way, they wouldn't have to rip up the road and inconvenience drivers twice.
But "that would be a real financial challenge for us," Waggoner said.
All of this is unavoidable because Florida has been steadily replacing outdated concrete bridges around the state. The process began long before an Aug. 1 collapse in Minnesota focused attention on the deteriorating condition of America's bridges.
The problem with some of the Crosstown's bridges is how the concrete was poured.
The first leg of the road opened in 1976 from Gandy Boulevard to lower downtown. After that, in the early '80s, the elevated downtown viaduct and the overpasses east of downtown were built with a construction technique that's no longer used in Florida, according to Ben Muns, the expressway's chief engineer.
Workers back then would piece together a bottom layer of prefabricated concrete slabs, then add reinforcing steel and pour a top layer of concrete, Muns said. It has since been discovered that traffic vibrations can separate those layers, letting water seep in and causing deterioration.
Expressway officials say there's no safety concern here, and state inspection records back them up.
"Our bridges have been inspected," Chrzan said. "They're structurally sound. It's just our time on the list" of bridges to be replaced.
Still, the Crosstown's age is showing, especially the elevated downtown section. In March, an 18-by-18-inch chunk of concrete dropped onto an empty lot. And in June, part of the road needed to be closed as workers fixed a crack in the concrete.
'Night and day'
For the $6.3-million in construction work that's starting between downtown and Brandon, crews will shut down one eastbound and westbound lane at a time as they rip out the overpasses' concrete slabs and pour new ones.
"The lanes are going to be closed 24/7, so they're going to be able to work both night and day," Chrzan said.
Expressway officials think this is a good time to get more drivers to move up to the elevated reversible lanes. Those lanes take commuters west to downtown in the morning and east to Brandon in the evening.
Of course, that won't work for drivers who are going the opposite way, or who are headed somewhere besides Brandon or downtown.
"Other people get off at Ybor, or they go farther - they come from Brandon and go to MacDill," Chrzan said.