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State funds Pinellas Gateway Express project
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CLEARWATER - Gov. Rick Scott traveled to Pinellas County Feb. 17 to deliver more good news about state funding for local transportation improvements.

As part of the governor’s investments in the Transportation Work Plan, the Florida Department of Transportation is funding $131 million to the Gateway Express project. When complete, the expressway will provide a direct connection from I-275 to U.S. 19 and from I-275 to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport and the Bayside Bridge.

Motorists will be able to make the new connections using an elevated tolled expressway. Thanks to the infusion of state money, the Gateway Express will open 20 years earlier than originally planned.

“I'm very pleased and thankful for this announcement. It is the largest remaining road connectivity project in Pinellas County,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel said. “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!”

FDOT is collaborating with Pinellas County on this project. Funding includes federal, state and Penny for Pinellas funds. Construction on the project, estimated to cost nearly $338 million, is scheduled to start in early 2017.

“With this $131 million commitment we will be able to speed up this critical project,” Scott said. “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.”

Project plans call for construction of the 118th Avenue and State Road 686 corridors as a single design/build project.

“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,” said FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said.

When the project is finished, motorists will have a choice to use the existing roadways or take the signal-free tolled expressway and travel from U.S. 19 or the St. Petersburg Clearwater International Airport to I-275 without stopping.

Officials estimate that motorists will save nine to 13 minutes during morning and afternoon commutes.

Scott made his announcement at the Pinellas Realtors Organization office on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.

“We are happy to hear about this exciting new project coming to Pinellas County,” said David Bennett, president and CEO of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, said. “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.”

This is the second visit from the governor to announce accelerated transportation projects.

On Feb. 10, he told local officials gathered at the Embassy Mobile Home Park in Clearwater that another project would receive FDOT funding to accelerate completion.

A new completion date was revealed for the current U.S. 19 construction project from north of Whitney Road to State Road 60 in Clearwater – October of this year – instead of the summer of 2015.

The cost to accelerate the project is $4.8 million. When complete, the 2.7-mile project, which began in November 2009 with an estimated cost of $113.5 million, will allow for uninterrupted travel from 49th Street to Sunset Point Road.
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