The Shine’s on Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

Posted On 05/14/2021 by St. Pete Chamber Member

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is a public agency of the state, created by the Florida Legislature in 1963 to provide local, user-financed transportation services that reinvest customer-based revenues back into the Tampa Bay community.

THEA was established by statute in 1963 as a way to develop numerous roadway projects in Hillsborough County. From the start of its establishment, the agency aimed to provide reliable and financially sustainable transportation services to our customers and community.

Since then, we have led the charge in state-of-the-art transportation options on a local and national level. Our agency owns and operates the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, which includes the Reversible Express Lanes, the world’s first reversible all-electronic toll road, and provides over 200,000 daily drivers with safe, reliable, and financially sustainable transportation service. THEA also owns Brandon Parkway and Meridian Avenue – gateways to the REL as well as beautifully landscaped pedestrian and bicycle paths – and the Selmon Greenway, which is a linear park, designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooters to have a safe way to travel through downtown Tampa.

The agency has an overarching goal of connecting regional communities with smooth, safe, and reliable travel.  This connection keeps cars off neighborhood roads and allows THEA to implement Vision Zero and neighborhood enhancements. Since we use only toll revenue and toll bonds for these additional projects, taxpayer dollars can be used by other agencies for other transportation priorities.

THEA specializes in providing innovative transportation solutions to the Tampa Bay region while also strategically investing in community improvement projects along the Selmon Expressway’s route. All revenues collected on the Selmon Expressway stay here in Tampa Bay, where we reinvest those dollars back into the community. We use our toll revenues to provide our region with a transportation system that provides regional connectivity to our residents and visitors.

In addition, the agency focuses on innovation by spearheading cutting-edge transportation programs like the THEA Connected Vehicle Pilot making the Selmon Expressway a testbed for connected vehicle driving. According to the USDOT, connected vehicle technology can reduce crash scenarios by up to 80%. Our agency looks to the future by testing innovation and investing in Project Development & Environmental (PD&E) studies to evaluate how our agency can be a part of moving traffic safely based on future growth models for the region.

THEA is a fully financially sustainable government agency that reinvests all the collected revenue on the Selmon Expressway back into the Tampa Bay community. The agency takes an active approach in beautifying the local community and activating spaces to cultivate an enhanced enjoyment of our region. St. Pete commuters now have a more aesthetically appealing – and faster – drive into Tampa. Even those commuters wishing to stay on Gandy Boulevard reap the benefits of reduced commute times, reduced delays at traffic lights, and a less congested Gandy Boulevard.

The Selmon Extension provides a critical link that connects businesses, freight, and people from Pinellas County to Hillsborough County – and back. THEA’s projects help stimulate social and economic prosperity for local businesses and the entire region.

Our agency partners with community organizations on everything from beautification to economic development to education and is committed to enhancing the community and activating urban spaces. Every year, THEA works with community partners on projects near the Selmon Expressway that have been identified as areas prime for enhancement.

The projects prioritize Vision Zero goals like the construction of wider sidewalks, additional bike lanes, and signalized timings for pedestrians, or add beautification efforts that include the development of green space, landscaping, and public art.

THEA constructed the Selmon Greenway, a 1.7-mile multi-use trail that runs east-west under the Selmon Expressway through downtown Tampa and connects with the City’s Riverwalk and the Meridian Trail. Along the Selmon Greenway, THEA has built a series of pocket parks with landscaping, benches, and artwork that enhances downtown Tampa’s esthetics, one of which is the award-winning Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park which includes a large outdoor mural by the artist known as BASK.  Other project examples can be found in neighborhood underpasses of the Selmon Expressway that activate spaces and improve connectivity for pedestrians.

THEA is an agency committed to the progress and future of the Tampa Bay region.

Our agency recently opened the Selmon West Extension and is preparing to celebrate sixty years of serving the Tampa Bay region with reliable, safe transportation options. During that time, the region has evolved and gone through remarkable growth.

In April, THEA opened the long-awaited Selmon Extension, an elevated 1.9-mile toll lane that provides a seamless connection and a safe transportation option for drivers traveling between Hillsborough and Pinellas County. Our studies found that on Gandy Boulevard, just as many people were commuting from Pinellas to Hillsborough as were commuting from Hillsborough to Pinellas. Gandy Boulevard was congested during rush hour with local and regional traffic, plus multiple stoplights.

The solution that the agency could implement was the elevated expressway, the Selmon Extension.

Construction of the $230 million project began in December 2017 and opened to the public in April of 2021. Our agency challenged the design-build team to come up with an innovative and aesthetically pleasing design that would minimize the negative effects of construction on the businesses along the Gandy corridor. The Selmon West Extension utilizes an ingenious design that has never been used before in the United States. The bridge’s distinctive fins provide a useful purpose by supporting the bridge deck, enabling longer span lengths between pier columns, and reducing height cross-section for the precast segments.

While most bridges stand 15’ off the ground, business owners along Gandy Boulevard were concerned that their businesses’ sightline would be blocked by a bridge that stood only 15’ tall. THEA listened to their concerns and built the Selmon Extension 30’ from the ground to the bottom of the bridge.

The Selmon West Extension offers drivers a choice, either stay on Gandy Boulevard for local destinations or use the Selmon West Extension for regional “pass-through” trips and greatly reduces commute times for Pinellas drivers. The cost to use the Extension is $0.95 with SunPass or $1.31 with Toll-By-Plate billing.

Toll revenues and bonds fully fund the Selmon West Extension without using any taxpayer dollars.

Learn more about Chamber member, Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA)