In the 1960s, Interstate 75 and Interstate 4 opened through Tampa. However, the alignment of the new roads, with Interstate 75 running north and west from downtown Tampa and Interstate 4 leaving downtown towards the northeast, left heavily populated south Tampa without freeway access; in particular, traffic to and from MacDill Air Force Base, which was forced to use congested Dale Mabry Highway to get just about anywhere. Also, traffic going into Tampa from the growing eastern suburb of Brandon was forced to use similarly congested Brandon Boulevard/Adamo Drive, also known as Florida state highway 60.
The solution was to set up a toll road authority, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, to pay for and build an expressway that would run from south Tampa through downtown and then go east to Brandon.
The toll road was named the Tampa Crosstown Expressway, identified by a logo of a white X-in-a-circle on a green background. In 1976, the portion through south Tampa opened, having been built mainly along the right of way of the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad’s line to Port Tampa. The initial route was about five miles, from the intersection of Gandy Boulevard and Dale Mabry to a temporary terminus in downtown Tampa, at Platt Street, Tampa Street, and Florida Avenue.
By 1983, the Crosstown Expressway was completed to Brandon, opened as far as a minor exit ramp at Falkenburg Road. The final half-mile portion didn’t open until the road to which it connected, the Interstate 75 bypass of Tampa and St. Petersburg, opened in 1986. The Crosstown was now 14 miles long, with a maximum toll of 85 cents (35 cents at the western toll plaza, 50 cents at the eastern toll plaza, with smaller tolls charged at certain entrances and exits).
In the late 1980s, the logo was changed to a picture of a smiling pirate on a blue background, supposedly the legendary Jose Gaspar, to go along with Tampa’s annual Gasparilla celebration. Although the Crosstown is known to the Florida Department of Transportation as state highway 618, because it is owned by the Expressway Authority and only maintained under contract by the DOT, there are no “618” signs posted, just signs with the pirate logo.
In 1996, to honor the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ only Hall of Famer, a signature from governor Jeb Bush renamed the Tampa Crosstown Expressway to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway. Although the pirate logo didn’t change, new big green signs were posted at intervals along the expressway proclaiming the new name, and the cartographers and the local media quickly changed their references as well.
In the future, the Selmon Crosstown Expressway will be extended west from its original south terminus in order to directly connect with the Gandy Bridge, allowing traffic wanting to cross Tampa Bay to avoid all the traffic lights on Gandy Boulevard between Dale Mabry and West Shore Boulevard.
In the more near future, though, a set of elevated reversible express lanes will be built in the median between Brandon and downtown Tampa. Set to be completed in 2004, the lanes will be open in the peak direction only during rush hours, and open only to transit buses and cars equipped with electronic toll collection transponders.
The interchanges on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway are consecutively numbered, rather than numbered according to the nearest milepost. The Expressway Authority has no plans to change the numbering anytime soon, probably because the road averages out to one exit per mile anyway.
- Exit 1A-B (westbound), U.S. 92, Gandy Boulevard: MacDill Air Force Base, St. Petersburg
- Exit 2 (westbound), Euclid Avenue
- Exit 3 (westbound), Bay to Bay Boulevard
- Exit 4, Willow Avenue: Hyde Park (50 cents eastbound)
- Toll Plaza, 75 cents
- Exit 5 (westbound), Hyde Park Avenue: Davis Islands, trainman’s old house (50 cents)
- Exit 6A (eastbound), Downtown West
- Exit 6B (eastbound), Downtown East
- Exit 7 (westbound), Downtown West
- Exit 8 (westbound), FL 60: Downtown East
Exits 6 through 8, formerly named for the streets to which they exit, were renamed in the mid-1990s to match the names of the downtown exits from Interstate 275.
- Exit 9, Business U.S. 41, 22nd Street: Ybor City (25 cents eastbound)
- Exit 10, 39th Street (50 cents eastbound)
- Exit 11, U.S. 41, 50th Street (50 cents eastbound)
- Toll Plaza, $1.00
- Exit 12 (eastbound), 78th Street to FL 60: Brandon
- Exit 13, U.S. 301: Brandon
- Exit 14 (eastbound), Falkenburg Road
- Exit 15 (eastbound), Interstate 75: Ocala, Naples