Selmon Crosstown Expressway
Florida 618 is the tolled Selmon Crosstown Expressway, taking an east-west path across Tampa. Partially an elevated highway, the route is the most direct route between Brandon and Downtown and the fastest way to cross South Tampa to connect with the Gandy Bridge along U.S. 92.
In 1960, planners wanted to build a second east/west freeway in Tampa about five miles north of Interstate 4. Traffic along Florida 574 would eventually be too much for the arterial to handle, and it would require a separate freeway corridor in addition to Interstate 4. In 1962, a feasibility study done by Wilbur Smith and Associates told the Department of Roads that the freeway would better serve needs south of Interstate 4 and more efficiently address traffic demands from the burgeoning suburban areas of Brandon and South Tampa.
The 1962 freeway plan shows the Crosstown Expressway basically in the same place it was eventually built. West of Downtown the freeway followed a railroad and split at US 92. The western arm would traverse the Gandy Bridge to St. Petersburg and the southern arm would go south through MacDill AFB and over the Hillsborough Bay Causeway to connect back to Interstate 75 near Apollo Beach. East of Downtown, the expressway was labeled as the "Palm River Expressway" and was planned to link to what was eventually proposed as the Interstate 75E bypass east of Tampa.
In 1966, when the Tampa Times ran an article on the traffic ills of Interstate 4, it was time to begin building the Crosstown Expressway, a reliever route. The first portion of the road built would be from Gandy Boulevard to Downtown, and people were none too happy about it. Critics and the media blasted the plan to build the western leg of the road first, saying no one would use it and it would be a colossal waste of money. The western leg was built first because the railroad gave the land next to its track to the state for free, it was cheaper. In the beginning, however, the critics were right. The first year the new road only received a third of the projected traffic, no one wanted to pay the dime to drive it when other free roads were available. The Tampa Expressway authority, in their desperation, gave away free travel days and put up billboards on other roads to get people to try out the Crosstown, still, few did. In 1975 a contest was held to design a logo for the road, it got one entry, the images of Jose Gasparilla that graced the road until the mid-2000s, when replacement shields featured a new design or the Toll Florida 618 designation.
Usage of the road climbed when the eastern portion was constructed in the 1980s, and in 1986 when the Crosstown was connected to Interstate 75 in Brandon ridership shot up almost 25%. Still, the road could not cover its own debt payments until 1995 - and it has covered those payments every year since.
Until 2002, none of the trailblazers along this route showed Toll Florida 618, as this was a hidden designation. That changed with the creation of a newer reassurance shield and trailblazer. This led to four kinds of trailblazers for the Selmon Crosstown Expressway: (1) Toll Florida 618 shields, (2) white shields with the words "Selmon Crosstown Expressway" and the image of a pirate hat, (3) royal blue squares with the picture of a buccaneer (pirate) on them, and/or (4) black on white signs with the words in plain text "Tampa Crosstown Expressway." The latter signage is the oldest.
A new trailblazer for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway was unveiled by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on July 28, 2008. This coincided with the dropping of "Crosstown" from the expressway name. These signs replace all other types of trailblazers.
Two extensions of the Crosstown Expressway have been planned and, officially, are still on the books. The eastern extension into Brandon along Florida 60 was debated on and planned in the late 1980s but was effectively killed by local opposition. The eastern extension is not likely to be built, and it was not in the mid-2000s county 20-year transportation plan. A western extension of the expressway was brought up in 1975 and detailed plans were drawn up. The state spent some money acquiring land but lacked the $70 million to build the road. Opposition sprang up from business leaders on U.S. 92, which would lose traffic to the Crosstown Expressway. As a result, there is no direct connection from the Crosstown Expressway to the Gandy Bridge.
A major improvement to the existing corridor is the reversible lanes project. Comprising a six-mile viaduct in the median of the LeRoy Selmon Expressway between Channelside and Brandon, the express lanes were first proposed in 1996. Construction was originally expected to be complete by summer 2005, but the April 2004 collapse of two 150 foot bridge spans, when a column sank 11 feet,1 delayed the project to a July 18, 2006 opening.
Selmon Expressway Connector
Funded in part by federal stimulus funds, the $421-million2 Crosstown connector opened to traffic on January 6, 2014. The elevated route links Interstates 4, State Road 618 and Port Tampa Bay through Ybor City in Tampa. The high-speed connector provides a new truck route to replace State Road 585 (21st & 22nd Streets) through the Ybor City street grid. Soaring to a height of 92 feet,2 the connector uses electronic toll collection and is accessible in all directions of I-4 and SR 618. Two ramps also lead directly to U.S. 41 Business for trucks bound to and from Port Tampa Bay.
Selmon Expressway Highway Guides
|Other Images - Toll Florida 618|
|The trailblazer selected in 1975 for the Tampa Crosstown Expressway. Few of these signs remain in Tampa as most were replaced with the 2008-adopted sign or SR 618 shields. Photo taken 12/27/00.|
- "Expectations Rise for Expressway." The Tampa Tribune, March 1, 2006.
- "Selmon link to I-4 nears completion." The Tampa Tribune, December 12, 2013.
Page Updated July 8, 2014.