A significant change is coming in a few weeks to northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa. However, what you will be driving on in a few weeks is just the tip of the iceberg as construction progresses on the section of Interstate 275 in Tampa from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to the Ashley Street/Tampa Street/Scott Street complex (Exit 44) in downtown Tampa.
If you have recently driven northbound Interstate 275 approaching downtown Tampa, you have probably seen the new northbound lanes take shape including the erection of all new signage on ultra-modern sign brackets much like what you see over at the Tampa International Airport interchange. If you look at a recent Bay News 9 article the picture will show you that the new northbound lanes are of concrete rather than asphalt.
The new section of northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa is scheduled to open shortly after Easter, according to the Bay News 9 article. However, as I mentioned earlier this new section of Interstate 275 northbound in Tampa is just the tip of the iceberg. Why?
This project is part of a gigantic Interstate 275 reconstruction effort which will eventually run from the Tampa International Airport/FL 60/Kennedy Blvd. exit (Exit 39) to downtown Tampa at Exit 44. What will happen after the new northbound lanes are opened is that southbound Interstate 275 traffic coming out of downtown Tampa will be shifted over to the present northbound Interstate 275 lanes while at the same time the existing southbound Interstate 275 lanes will be demolished and a newly reconstructed southbound Interstate 275 coming out of downtown Tampa will take its place.
But wait! There’s more!
From Himes Avenue westward to the Howard Frankland Bridge Interstate 275 will also be getting the major reconstruction makeover as well. If you have been by the section of northbound Interstate 275 between Westshore Blvd. (Exit 40A) and Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) you have probably seen all the land clearing going on to the right of the northbound lanes. According to the fact sheet at the Florida DOT’s Tampa Bay Interstates site the segment consisting of reconstructing both northbound and southbound Interstate 275 from the Howard Frankland Bridge to Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) is scheduled for construction around Spring 2011.
Now what will all this mean for you when it’s all said and done?
First and foremost, you will see a widened Interstate 275 from six lanes to eight lanes. This will mean more capacity especially during the morning and afternoon commutes. The original Interstate 275 from downtown Tampa to the Howard Frankland Bridge was constructed in 1962 and 1963 and it used to be known as Interstate 4 at the time as a six- and four-lane highway with the transition taking place at Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A/B). The original four lane segment from Dale Mabry Highway to FL 60 (Exit 39) was widened to six lanes in the mid-1970’s and the original grass median was replaced with a continuous concrete Jersey barrier wall separating northbound and southbound traffic.
Second, there will be space in the newly created median which will accommodate a future light rail or commuter rail service utilizing the center median of Interstate 275. Even with all the new improvements that are coming to Interstate 275, we still need better mass transit if the Tampa Bay metro region wants to compete with the other metro regions of Florida and throughout the southeastern United States.
Third, you will no longer have the roller coaster effect which is the case with the present segment of Interstate 275 from Howard and Armenia Avenues (Exit 42) to downtown Tampa. This makes for a better line of sight and you can know in advance when your exit is coming up along with all new signage.
As I mentioned earlier, the new northbound lanes of Interstate 275 from Himes Avenue to downtown Tampa that will be opening in a few weeks is just the tip of the iceberg. Sure there will be more construction inconveniences on the way but in the end we’ll have an Interstate 275 we can be proud of.