By Matt Wiley

New Tampa and Wesley Chapel commuters will soon see more than just stationary construction vehicles and contracting crews crossing the span of roadway that stretches across I-75, between the Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. and S.R. 56 interchanges. If construction continues at its current pace, the so-called New Tampa Gateway Bridge could be completed by the end of the calendar year.

“Construction has gone smoothly,” says David Vaughn, director of contract administration for the City of Tampa. “We just paved the bridge deck and we’re ahead of schedule.”

The $12.4-million, 0.7-mile bridge project that will connect Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms to New Tampa Blvd. in West Meadows is on track for a December completion, almost six months ahead of the original contracted end date of May 2013. However, Vaughn says, there is significant interest in timing the opening of the bridge with other major road construction projects in the area.

“We’re trying to time the opening of the bridge with the widening of Commerce Park Blvd., the installation of a traffic light in front of Freedom High and the widening of Bruce B. Downs between Palm Springs Blvd. and Pebble Creek Blvd.,” he explains. “We want it all done at the same time.”

The bridge is being built with the option to one day expand into a four-lane roadway, but will open as a two-lane road and remain that way for the foreseeable future, Vaughn says, adding, “There is currently no timetable for expanding the road after it opens.”

When the bridge does open, it will feature sidewalks on both sides, eight feet wide on the north side and five feet on the south side, offering a safer way for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel from Tampa Palms into New Tampa, especially students of Freedom High and Liberty Middle School on the Tampa Palms side and Clark Elementary on the West Meadows side, without having to ever get stuck in the heavy traffic on BBD.

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