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Communication Planning, Outreach and Execution for the Selmon West Extension Project

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA)

Award Category: 
Customer Service & Marketing Outreach
Award Year: 


Patience, persistence, and a commitment to community involvement and outreach made the difference for the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) when it launched the Selmon West Extension Project, the third attempt in 25 years to advance a project to reduce congestion along Gandy Boulevard in Tampa, Florida. Earlier plans that called for removal of homes and businesses along the corridor produced fierce community opposition. When THEA took over the project in 2009, its engineers proposed a different solution—an elevated toll lane along the median that would fit the narrow roadway and leave surrounding buildings intact. On the heels of the “Great Recession,” that plan still made business and community leaders nervous and was put on hold. But by 2014, population growth significantly increased congestion and raised concerns about evacuation preparedness in the event of a major hurricane. THEA worked closely with local leaders to reintroduce the elevated road design to maximize regional connectivity. To get the project completed, the THEA team changed their approach and focused on community involvement and outreach. This included a marketing campaign to respond to the concerns of businesses that believed they would be negatively affected by the construction. It also including hosting events to draw more customers to the Gandy Boulevard corridor, a social media initiative to engage customers, and earned media opportunities for local businesses on local television networks. The project, which had failed to launch on four previous occasions, received the endorsement of four Chambers of Commerce and minimal push back from the neighboring communities as a direct result of the grassroots outreach and strategic marketing plan that THEA created for the shopping district.