TAMPA, FLA. — Construction of a $400 million elevated interchange is scheduled to begin this month. The completed interchange will allow Tampa Bay area motorists to have a direct route to downtown Tampa and the Port of Tampa, thus alleviating congestion on the downtown interchange and through nearby Ybor City. The new I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector (Connector) will link two major highways, Interstate 4 (I-4) and the Selmon Expressway and will serve as a hurricane evacuation route. The Connector is one of the first roads in the country to provide dedicated truck lanes. The estimated completion date for the Connector project is 2013.

According to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 7, interstate project manager, Adam Perez, P.E., “The Connector is the largest construction contract that FDOT District 7 has advertised for bidding. It is also the second project in the state to use a build-finance type of procurement method since the design plans were produced for the department, but the available funding required that the construction team finance a portion of the construction work.”

PBS&J designed all but a northern portion of the Connector on behalf of FDOT District 7. The Connector project is a collaborative endeavor between FDOT, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, and the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

“This is also one of the largest projects ever designed by PBS&J,” said Joseph R. Garrity, P.E., project director and associate vice president of PBS&J’s transportation design, south Florida division. The nearly one-mile-long Connector is essentially a huge interchange with a series of interconnecting one-lane and two-lane ramps that merge at one section into a 12-lane roadway (six lanes in each direction). Ten PBS&J bridge teams, working together with 30 other specialty subconsultants, spent over 500,000 hours preparing the necessary plans, specifications, and estimates for this project under an extremely aggressive 36-month design schedule.”

Other unique project features include a signature gantry design for electronic toll collection. This one-of-a-kind, fully self-contained tolling facility will operate 24/7, year round, without having to close for repairs. A unique truss system for the toll gantries and complex bridges were other design challenges. “Aesthetics are an extremely important element of this project,” explained Garrity. Based on input from the local community and historical interest groups, PBS&J designed a “gateway” on 7th Avenue to reflect the turn-of-the-century “main street” architecture of Ybor City.

According to Garrity, the project will be “a design-bid-build-finance project that will be contractor-financed initially, until federal funding kicks in around 2013 or 2014.” The project will also include approximately $100 million in stimulus funds designated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.