Interstate 75 at US 301 (Exit 224) Alert

If you are one of the many motorists that make Interstate 75 crossing US 301 (Exit 224) and the Manatee River a part of your day, then this blog entry is just for you! By now you have heard on the major Tampa Bay area media outlets (including Bay News 9) that a serious accident has taken place on Interstate 75 southbound as it crosses US 301 on the afternoon of Wednesday, 4 June 2008.

This accident is similar to what happened on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg back in March 2007 when a tanker flipped over on the flyover from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 eastbound (Exit 23). According to news reports, a truck swerved to avoid a motorist which resulted in a chain of events that sent the truck over the left hand rail of Interstate 75 as it crosses US 301; the truck from what I understand fell onto US 301 and caught fire which resulted in serious damage to Interstate 75’s southbound bridge crossing US 301. The truck driver from what I understand was taken to Tampa General Hospital.

Constructed in 1979 and opened to traffic in 1981, this section of Interstate 75 is one of the many sections opened when Interstate 75 was extended from Tampa to Miami by way of the southern west coast of Florida and Alligator Alley to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. In fact, this particular section from US 301 (Exit 224) in Ellenton to River Road (Exit 191) south of Venice was one of the first sections to open in 1981.

From what I understand the decision was made by the Florida DOT to replace the damaged beams and piers on the southbound bridge carrying Interstate 75 over US 301. This is going to mean inconveniences for many of you until this overpass is rebuilt. I know, this is going to mean barricades, long grueling waits in traffic and heavy Florida Highway Patrol presence.

The Florida DOT is planning on temporarily converting the northbound Interstate 75 overpass to carry two way traffic while the southbound Interstate 75 overpass is being reconstructed where it goes over US 301. From what I understand this temporary setup should be in place by Monday, 9 June 2008.

Now for a recommended detour around all of this mess.

The following affects Interstate 75 southbound if you are headed to Bradenton, Sarasota or points south. I want to emphasize that Interstate 75 northbound is not affected, but traffic will be heavy.

If you are headed south on Interstate 275 from St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge:

After crossing the Sunshine Skyway bridge on southbound Interstate 275, take the US 19 south exit which will be Exit 5. Follow US 19 south to US 41 south; continue on US 41 south across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (which crosses the Manatee River) into Bradenton.

At the second traffic signal will be eastbound FL 64 which is marked with plenty of overhead signage. Take a left at FL 64 and follow it for about 8 or 9 miles; this will bring you back to Interstate 75 south.

If you are headed south on Interstate 75 from Tampa:

You will be directed off of Interstate 75 at Exit 224, which is US 301. Simply exit Interstate 75 at Exit 224 and follow US 301 south through the town of Ellenton to the junction of US 41. US 301 and US 41 multiplex here, so you want to follow US 41 south across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (which crosses the Manatee River) into Bradenton.

At the second traffic signal will be eastbound FL 64 which is marked with plenty of overhead signage. Take a left at FL 64 and follow it for about 8 or 9 miles; this will bring you back to Interstate 75 south.

This detour will be in place at least until the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 crossing US 301 at Exit 224 are converted to handle temporary two-way traffic. Even after the temporary conversion is in place, you may want to keep this detour in mind as traffic will be heavy.

On a side note, for those headed to the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area from Tampa or St. Petersburg using Interstate 75, you may want to consider crossing the state from Tampa via FL 60 to the Florida Turnpike, then head southbound on the turnpike. Or, you may want to consider flying to Ft. Lauderdale; Southwest Airlines has several daily flights from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale and vice versa. Besides, with gas at the $4.00 a gallon mark I would consider flying to Ft. Lauderdale from Tampa any day.

The repairs to Interstate 75 southbound at US 301 (Exit 224) are expected to take several weeks to complete. If you are one of the many motorists who make Interstate 75 in the Bradenton/Sarasota area a part of your routine I want to hear from you!

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