Governor Rick Scott announced the advancement of the Gateway Express project, a direct connection from I-275 to US 19 and from I-275 to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport and the Bayside Bridge via an elevated tolled expressway. Through Governor Scott’s investments in the Transportation Work Plan of more than $131 million in state funding the Department of Transportation will be able to speed up the project allowing the road to open 20 years sooner than previously expected. The project will address the growing transportation needs in the Greater Pinellas Gateway area by constructing the 118th Ave. and S.R. 686 corridors as one single design/build project.
Governor Scott said, “With this $131 million commitment we will be able to speed up this critical project. 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.”
An expressway option will better serve the community by providing faster travel times and by providing revenue to cover future maintenance and operating costs. A toll-free option will remain available on the existing road network therefore giving drivers a choice. Motorists will be able to travel from US 19 or from the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport to I-275 without stopping at any signals. The potential time savings is from nine to 13 minutes during the morning and afternoon commutes.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Ananth Prasad said, “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.”
FDOT is partnering with Pinellas County on this project. Funding includes federal, state and Penny for Pinellas funds. The project, estimated to cost nearly $338 million, would start construction in early 2017.
During the event, Governor Scott also recognized Mark McBride for his excellent service as a Road Ranger with District Seven since 2000. Not only is he one of the longest serving Road Rangers, he is also the oldest -which does not show in his ability to perform his job in a superior manner. Mark has not only been a long term asset to the program, but has proven to be a man of high moral values. During his time as a Road Ranger, he has often gone above and beyond the expected duties.
Mark once found some college textbooks. Knowing their value, he spent hours of his own time tracking down the owner and making sure they were returned.
In another incident, Mark found $8,000 cash plus credit cards and checks in a briefcase along the interstate. The owner’s name was in the case, so he contacted his supervisor and the police, as well as the owner to make sure everything was returned to the person who lost it.
Mark also found a woman’s purse with money and credit cards inside. He called his and supervisor and they managed to contact the church that the woman attends, and arranged to meet her at the church to return her purse.
These are just a few of examples of what makes Mark not only a great Road Ranger but a wonderful human being who is always willing to go above and beyond to help others.