Interstate 275 Tampa Major Congestion Alert

If you plan on using northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa from the Tampa International Airport interchange (Exit 39) to Downtown Tampa (Exit 44), you need to read this blog entry carefully. This weekend (24 through 26 April 2009) will see expected major congestion on northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa, with congestion at times extending across the Howard Frankland Bridge into St. Petersburg.

In a previous blog post the new northbound lanes of Interstate 275 from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to Downtown Tampa (Exit 44) are scheduled to open to traffic. However, making a traffic switch is not your typical traffic switch as certain activities such as paving can only be done when traffic is actually switch from the old to the new northbound lanes. In fact, just recently we have seen the exit ramp from northbound Interstate 275 to Tampa International Airport (TIA) closed periodically throughout the weekend in order to perform construction related tasks that cannot be done when you got traffic flowing through on the highway; this closure brought about detours and inconvenience for those headed to TIA.

Before I go on further, let me give you some words of advice if you plan on using northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa this weekend: If your travel plans don’t include using Interstate 275 northbound this weekend, plan on finding a different route. If you plan on catching a flight at Tampa International Airport, leave earlier than usual.

If you are headed to Downtown Tampa or anywhere east of Tampa (including Interstate 4 and Orlando including the theme parks), a great alternative route would be Gandy Blvd. (US 92) via the Gandy Bridge to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway. Follow the Selmon Crosstown Expressway east and that will take you to Downtown Tampa (Exits 6A/B) and Ybor City (Exit 9). If you are headed towards Interstate 4 and Orlando, stay on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway until you get to Interstate 75; north on Interstate 75 for about 4 miles to Interstate 4. Once you are on Interstate 4 east from Interstate 75 north that will take you out of the congestion expected on Interstate 275 north in Tampa this weekend. Remember, the Crosstown Expressway is a toll road so have cash or your SunPass handy; believe me, the toll is well worth it.

Again, if you must use Interstate 275 north in Tampa this weekend, leave earlier than usual. This is very important if you are headed to Tampa International Airport to catch a flight.

Now the schedule of events that will take place on Interstate 275 in Tampa in the vicinity of the new northbound lanes over the course of this weekend according to the Florida DOT:

Traffic impacts to northbound Interstate 275 will begin at 9 PM on Friday, 24 April 2009.

From 8 PM Friday (24 April 2009) to 8 AM Saturday (25 April 2009) the entrance to northbound Interstate 275 from Dale Mabry Highway (Exit 41) will be closed. Best to use Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) or Howard Avenue (Exit 42) to reach northbound Interstate 275.

9 PM Friday (24 April 2009): Of Interstate 275’s three northbound lanes, one or two will be closed from Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) to Downtown Tampa (Exit 44). Additionally, at Exit 44 the ramps to Ashley Drive or Scott Street will be closed until 5:30 AM Saturday morning; traffic will be detoured to whatever Exit 44 ramp is open (in other words, if Ashley is closed traffic will be diverted onto Scott and vice versa).

Traffic should be shifted to the new northbound Interstate 275 lanes by Saturday morning. However, the new northbound lanes will be in a two lane northbound configuration until around 5:30 AM Monday, 27 April 2009.

Even when the new northbound lanes are fully opened in their three lane northbound configuration Monday morning, there will be no additional planned lanes until this coming Fall as additional widening has to take place. As a result, motorists will see three northbound lanes on the new segment of Interstate 275 of varying widths and trucks will see a restriction to use only the middle lane. Moreover, the speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph until the project is completed; expect heavy Florida Highway Patrol presence as speeding fines are doubled within construction work zones.

Also as a part of this major traffic switch this weekend the northbound ramp onto Interstate 275 from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) is scheduled to re-open on Monday, 27 April 2009.

Once again, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of finding an alternative route this weekend if your travel plans include northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa from TIA to Downtown Tampa. Moreover, if you must use northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa this weekend – such as catching a flight out of Tampa International Airport – please leave earlier than usual. Gandy and the Selmon Crosstown Expressway is a great alternative to avoid the expected mass congestion on northbound Interstate 275 this weekend.

After all, making improvements to Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area will mean inconveniences for you and me from time to time. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that will be an improved Interstate 275.

And by the way, if you get caught in the expected mass congestion on northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa please let me know by posting your experiences.

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