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Veterans widening project starts Sunday in Tampa

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Relief is coming for commuters constantly stuck in congestion on the Veterans Expressway. A $386 million project begins Sunday to widen the highway and convert it to an all-electronic tolling system.

Tampa driver Reuben Sardinas says he drives the Veterans five days a week and is tired of sitting in traffic.

"It's just horrendous in the morning, so the expansion is going to be good," said Sardinas.

The first phase of the project will widen 6-miles of the Veterans from four lanes to eight lanes.  Crews begin work April 21 on the section from Gunn Highway to Linebaugh Avenue.  They start on the next section from Linebaugh Avenue to Barry Road on April 29th

Later in the year, the entire stretch to Memorial Highway will be widened.  In 2014 and 2015, Phases II and III will add four more lanes to the 5-mile stretch from Gunn Highway to Van Dyke Road.

While the widening project is underway, crews will also remove all of the toll plazas along the Veterans Expressway and Suncoast Parkway.

"The tolls plazas are the major congestion point on the Veterans Highway, especially the southernmost one at Anderson Road," said Florida's Turnpike Authority Spokeswoman Christa Deason. "When you eliminate that, the traffic will be flowing at highway speeds."

After the conversion, drivers must have a SunPass or they will be mailed a bill each time they drive through an electronic toll area.

An estimated 150,000 people drive on the Veterans Expressway each day. The widening improvements will also include construction of three new bridges and reconstruction of 38 existing bridges.

Deason says the bulk of the work will occur at night and during the early morning hours in an effort to prevent delays for commuters.

"We're going to maintain two lanes in each direction during day light hours.  Overnight we will have single lane closures," she explained.

The project is scheduled to last three years.

 

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