Governor Rick Scott today announced the advancement of the Gateway Express project, a direct connection from I-275 to US 19 and from I-275 to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport and the Bayside Bridge via an elevated tolled expressway. Through Governor Scott’s investments in the Transportation Work Plan of more than $131 million in state funding the Department of Transportation will be able to speed up the project allowing the road to open 20 years sooner than previously expected. The project will address the growing transportation needs in the Greater Pinellas Gateway area by constructing the 118th Ave. and S.R. 686 corridors as one single design/build project.
Governor Scott said, “With this $131 million commitment we will be able to speed up this critical project. This will make roads safe, and allow families to spend more time together and less time sitting in traffic. The Gateway Express Project will also allow economic activity to continue to grow and develop in Pinellas County, which will create jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
An expressway option will better serve the community by providing faster travel times and by providing revenue to cover future maintenance and operating costs. A toll-free option will remain available on the existing road network therefore giving drivers a choice. Motorists will be able to travel from US 19 or from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport to I-275 without stopping at any signals. The potential time savings is from nine to 13 minutes during the morning and afternoon commutes.
“This is the most significant capital improvement in Pinellas transit since the overhaul of US-19,” stated Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg). “This project will allow for seamless travel between north and south Pinellas and will significantly ease traffic congestion. These types of projects are what we need to prioritize in order to keep Pinellas moving in the right direction.”
Representative Larry Ahern said, “This project will help relieve traffic congestion and provide options for area motorists. Travelers will have the choice of using the new toll road or continue driving on the existing toll-free network of roadways. Most importantly, this provides solutions that benefit our area’s economic future.”
Representative Ed Hooper said, “I know this project has been high on the county’s list and anything we can do to help the mobility for the residents of Pinellas County is greatly appreciated. This allows additional options for our constituents and I support it 100%.”
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad said, “Originally broken out as five separate projects, combining them into one as a managed lane project will advance these corridor improvements by approximately 20 years.”
David Bennett, President and CEO, Pinellas Realtor Organization, said, “We are happy to hear about this exciting new project coming to Pinellas County. The expressway is more than a transportation project, it is an economic development project. It is another way to connect businesses with customers and employees. We thank the Governor for his leadership and hope to continue working with him on future transit oriented projects.”
Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel said, “I’m very pleased and thankful for this announcement. It is the largest remaining road connectivity project in Pinellas County. The Gateway area is centric for job retention and growth. And it connects this major employment area to St. Petersburg, Clearwater and to Westshore in Tampa. This has been the single largest missing piece for our roadway network within Pinellas County. We are thrilled!”
Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche said, “I support the project. Pinellas is unique in our current state of built-out sprawl development. Unrestricted travel is essential as we go about our diverse day-to-day lives here. Notwithstanding the frustration that road construction can bring with it, our roadway system is really quite functional, and this project will build upon our need for flexibility in our daily travels.”
Rick Baker, Former Mayor of St. Pete said, “This is a project the community has been working on for over 15 years. I believe this is one of the most important announcements in our history that will link north and south Pinellas County.”
FDOT is partnering with Pinellas County on this project. Funding includes federal, state and Penny for Pinellas funds. The project, estimated to cost nearly $338 million, would start construction in early 2017.