Interstate 175 at 6 St S

A couple of weeks ago a dump truck tried to go under Interstate 175 at 6 St S in downtown St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, the dump truck had something raised which ended up hitting the concrete beams of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 175.

The impact sent chunks of concrete raining down on 6 St S underneath the eastbound lanes. Both the eastbound lanes of Interstate 175 as well as 6 St S were closed while Florida DOT engineers checked the condition of the structure. Two beams crossing 6 St S were severely damaged necessitating their replacement.

The Florida DOT engineers decided that one eastbound lane of Interstate 175 was safe for travel, so traffic was restricted to one lane eastbound crossing 6 St S. Right away workers began the process of removing the bridge decking and barrier wall in order to get access to the two damaged concrete beams.

Meanwhile, over at a concrete bridge beam factory somewhere in Tampa, the two replacement beams were being fabricated in accordance with the original plans when Interstate 175 was built in the late 1970’s. Once cast the beams were trucked to the site for placement onto the overpass bridge piers.

Once the beams were lifted and set into place, all that was left was to re-deck the concrete roadway and reconstruct the barrier wall. About two weeks later, on 30 September 2019 the repairs were complete and the right eastbound lane of Interstate 175 was reopened. In addition, 6 St S was also reopened giving back outbound access to Interstate 275 for those that work at St. Petersburg’s two major hospitals, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (formerly Bayfront Medical Center).

All in all, I would say kudos to the Florida DOT for getting this very important overpass repaired and back in service! After all, downtown St. Petersburg needs these downtown feeders – Interstates 175 and 375 – to get commuters and visitors from Interstate 275 to the heart of downtown St. Petersburg and vice versa.

North Sunshine Skyway Rest Area Recreational Areas

Just a quick reminder regarding the recreational areas at the rest area on the Sunshine Skyway’s north end:

The recreational areas on the Sunshine Skyway’s north rest area are only open during daylight hours.  Just recently the Florida DOT installed access gates on the access roads that lead into the recreational areas which are locked during the evening hours.  Additionally, signage is posted letting users know of the hours of operation.

However, the rest area itself as well as access to the northern fishing pier is still open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with nighttime security provided at the rest area for peace of mind.  Presently the rest area on the Sunshine Skyway’s northern end is getting a new building and it should be completed soon.  Once the Sunshine Skyway north rest area is finished and done work will begin on replacing the rest area building on the south (Manatee County) end of the Sunshine Skyway.  The rest area replacement is part of a Florida DOT project to replace the rest area buildings on either end of the Sunshine Skyway, which were built in the early 1990’s when the Sunshine Skyway was brought up to interstate highway standards shortly after the cable stayed Sunshine Skyway opened in 1987.

Also at the Sunshine Skyway’s north rest area are two monuments, one to the 35 people that perished on that fateful morning of 9 May 1980 when a freighter, the Summit Venture, collided with the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span causing the span to fall 150 feet into the churning waters of Tampa Bay.  The other monument is a memorial to the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, which sank in Tampa Bay after colliding with a tanker, the Capricorn.  These monuments are still open even though construction is taking place at the Sunshine Skyway’s north rest area and are well worth a visit.

Headed to the Florida Railroad Museum from St. Petersburg Soon?

If you’re headed to the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish from St. Petersburg via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge anytime soon, you will want to read this.  An upcoming ramp closure at the southern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 (Exit 228) is going to affect how you are going to get to the Florida Railroad Museum, especially for the upcoming events including the museum’s most popular event in December, the North Pole Express.

Beginning Sunday, 29 July 2018 and continuing for ten (10) months, the overpass flyover bridge connecting southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 will be closed for concrete bridge deck replacement.  Along with the work, according to the Florida DOT, will be roadway resurfacing, guardrail installation and signage replacement.  I have driven over this flyover ramp a lot especially when headed over to the Florida Railroad Museum’s Parrish station and I agree, that flyover bridge deck is in need of replacement.

The southern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75, Exit 228, was originally constructed in the early 1980’s and opened in 1982 when another segment of the Tampa-to-Miami extension of Interstate 75 opened from US 301 (Exit 224) north to Big Bend Road (Exit 246).  When this segment opened the signage for the Interstate 275 southern terminus had “To US 41” signage initially as the remainder of Interstate 275 connecting US 41 to the Sunshine Skyway wasn’t built yet; the connection was finally made in 1984 and the “To US 41” signage was rightfully replaced with Interstate 275 north signage.

From Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229, the exit for the Florida Railroad Museum) southward to FL 681 (Exit 200) the original Interstate 75 mainline pavement was concrete but due to extensive settlement issues the concrete pavement was replaced with asphalt sometime in the 1990’s.  The flyover bridge from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 has been repaired numerous times and those repairs do show on the bridge deck itself resulting in a somewhat bumpy ride.

So, the Florida DOT is going to address the issue of the flyover bridge from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 at Exit 228 by replacing the bridge concrete deck.  Now for those of you that use this ramp to get from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 which free flows into Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229) providing for easy Florida Railroad Museum access, that’s going to change as that ramp has to be closed so that the bridge deck can be replaced.

To get to the Florida Railroad Museum from St. Petersburg via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge while the flyover ramp is being reconstructed follow this detour:

  1.  Follow Interstate 75 south for Naples.  There are two lanes that free flow onto southbound Interstate 75.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to Naples – instead, you’re going to the next exit, US 301 (Exit 224).
  2. Exit Interstate 75 south at Exit 224, which will be US 301 to Palmetto and Ellenton.  You want to go north on US 301 through Ellenton.  Both Ellenton and Parrish are close to each other.
  3. North on US 301 for 7 miles to Parrish.  Immediately after passing the turn for FL 62 to Wauchula, cross the railroad tracks and make a right turn at 83 St E.
  4. Once you made that right turn, you have arrived at the Florida Railroad Museum!

Please allow yourself plenty of time to get to the museum, especially if you will be attending any of the events being held at the museum including the North Pole Express.  Especially for the North Pole Express, you want to be there as early as possible to pick up your tickets at Will Call and be on board the train prior to departure – the train departs on time as scheduled!

Additionally, if you need to get to northbound Interstate 75 from southbound Interstate 275 during the ramp closure, you can also use Interstate 75 south to US 301 (Exit 224) and turn around there.  When I read the Florida DOT project flyer for the Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 75 northbound bridge deck replacement project, I was surprised to see the official detour the Florida DOT wants you to take:  Exit Interstate 275 at Exit 2 to US 41, then north on US 41 to FL 674 in Ruskin.  I don’t know what the detour planners at the Florida DOT were thinking of, but that route I think is way out of the way when closer alternatives exist (such as US 301, Exit 224) and there is an 11 mile separation between Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229) and FL 674 to Sun City Center and Ruskin (Exit 240).

In short, the flyover ramp connecting southbound Interstate 275 with northbound Interstate 75 at Interstate 275’s southern terminus on Interstate 75 at Exit 228 in Manatee County west of Parrish will be closed for about 10 months for needed bridge deck replacement.  Being an important route for those from St. Petersburg using the Sunshine Skyway Bridge reaching the Florida Railroad Museum, the detour is going to add to your travel time to the museum, so plan accordingly and arrive in plenty of time to pick up tickets and be on board the train prior to departure.

SunPass Problems?

Remember back in June when SunPass went offline for a week for a major upgrade?  I have been hearing a lot of horror stories about problems with SunPass when the site came back online such as transactions not posting like they have should and the inability to add funds to your SunPass account among other things.

Right now a few of the problems with SunPass have been corrected such as the ability to add funds to your account as well as parking at Tampa International Airport using SunPass Plus.  But thanks to a squabble on the part of the contractor handling the SunPass upgrades, transactions since the day SunPass went offline in June weren’t posted but we’re seeing a little progress.

So, if you have a SunPass horror story – such as adding funds, toll transactions and customer service interactions to name a few – to share, I would like to invite you to share your experience by leaving a comment.  After all, the Florida DOT did a disservice to all SunPass users and there should have been a new and improved SunPass system when it went back online.

Got a SunPass? You might want to replenish it soon!

If you have that trusty little gizmo attached to the inside of your windshield that pays your tolls on the Sunshine Skyway as well as the Pinellas Bayway, the Selmon Crosstown Expressway, the Veterans Expressway/Suncoast Parkway and beyond within the great State of Florida called a SunPass, you need to read this blog entry carefully.  Beginning Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 7 PM and continuing until Monday, 11 June 2018 at 9 AM system maintenance will be conducted which will affect how you access your SunPass account for balance inquiries, replenishments, account updates and more.

The good news is that you can continue to use your SunPass transponder to pay your tolls anytime throughout the SunPass maintenance period.  However, it is very important to make sure that your SunPass is topped off with sufficient funds as well as to make sure that your credit card is up to date if you are a SunPass EasyPay customer.  (SunPass EasyPay is where you keep your credit card number on file with SunPass and when your SunPass account reaches a minimum threshold, say $10.00, then your credit card is billed based on your auto-replenishment amount you set up in your SunPass account.)

Beginning on Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 7 PM system maintenance will commence in which you will be unable to log in to your SunPass account as the SunPass website will be down throughout the maintenance period.  This also includes the SunPass app you may have on your smartphones as well as the activation kiosks at the Florida Welcome Centers and Florida’s Turnpike Service Plazas.  In other words, you will be able to use your SunPass to pay tolls but you cannot log in to your SunPass account during the maintenance period.

For those of you that use your SunPass to pay for airport parking at Tampa International Airport, during the SunPass maintenance window you will be unable to use your SunPass for airport parking.  The only exception is parking at Orlando International Airport.

If you plan on using any Tampa International Airport parking facility (Short Term Parking Garage, Long Term Parking Garage or Economy Parking Garage) just prior to or during the SunPass maintenance window, you will want to pay for your airport parking by taking a ticket given to you from the ticket dispensing machine as you enter the garage of your choice.  When you exit, take the ticket to one of the self service credit card only lanes to pay with a credit or debit card or to an attended lane to pay with cash.  SunPass will not be available for airport parking at Tampa International Airport during the SunPass maintenance window and your SunPass will not work as such.

If your SunPass account is set up for Easy Pay, if in the event your account runs low and your replenishment amount  is low, there is the possibility that your credit card on file may be charged to cover the tolls multiple times depending on your usage.  To prevent this from happening when the SunPass website comes back online on Monday, 11 June 2018 (and to avoid a potential telephone call from your bank or credit union’s fraud prevention team regarding multiple charges from SunPass), you will want to make sure that you have enough funds in your SunPass account and replenish as needed.

On the other hand, for those of you that don’t have a SunPass and need to get one, do so before Tuesday, 5 June 2018 at 7 PM.  SunPass transponders can be purchased at participating retailers and once you purchase your SunPass transponder, be sure to go online to the SunPass website and set up your account before 7 PM on Tuesday, 5 June 2018.

If you plan on renting a car and using your SunPass transponder to pay your tolls (and side stepping the often times high charges that rental car companies assess for tolls), plan on picking up your rental car and adding it to your SunPass account before the SunPass maintenance window on 5 June 2018.  According to the SunPass alert on the upcoming maintenance window, you will not be able to add a rental car to your account during the maintenance window but you can when the SunPass website comes back online and when you add the rental car the subscription can be back dated for the time period you have the rental car within the SunPass maintenance window.

Once again, SunPass will be conducting system maintenance from 7 PM on Tuesday, 5 June 2018 until 9 AM on Monday, 11 June 2018.  While you will be able to use your SunPass to pay your tolls during the maintenance window, you will not be able to access your SunPass account throughout that period.  The best advice we can give you here at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog is to keep your SunPass funded and replenish as needed to get you by during the SunPass maintenance window.

For more information, you may want to check the SunPass website.


Reflections on the Sunshine Skyway Tragedy 38 Years Ago

Just a few days ago on Wednesday, 9 May 2018, we marked a somber occasion that took place on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge 38 years ago: The Day The Sunshine Skyway Fell, 9 May 1980.

Every 9 May we here at mark that somber occasion by retelling the story of The Day The Sunshine Skyway Fell. It along with the Sunshine Skyway’s four main channel piers – especially the southbound span’s Pier 1S – plus the two cantilever through truss twin bridges are forever etched into the history of the Tampa Bay region. As the years go by, it is important that our younger people learn what happened many years ago. Today’s Sunshine Skyway is the cable stayed four lane span we residents of and visitors to the Tampa Bay region know but when we take a ride over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and we see that fishing pier on both the Pinellas and Manatee sides of the bridge, our children ask us why the present bridge was built and what used to be of the fishing piers in their earlier heydays.

It’s very important that we learn history, whether it may be the railroad track that the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish runs on or what the Sunshine Skyway Bridge carrying Interstate 275 over Tampa Bay used to be. It’s also very important that classes on American History and World History are still taught in our public schools despite the present day curriculum based on Common Core and high stakes testing such as the Florida Standards Assessments Tests in Florida and the changed landscape of our public school systems.

That said, every 9 May here in the Tampa Bay region the story of the Sunshine Skyway tragedy must be retold. And it must be retold to the children that follow us. Join us now on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog as we retell the story of the Sunshine Skyway tragedy on 9 May 1980.

In the mouth of Tampa Bay, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was a classic twin cantilever span ready for yet another day. Another day of motorists driving across the bridge (and having to dread the steel grid deck) to get where they want to go. Another day of ships coming into and out of the Port of Tampa. Besides, being a Friday it’s the end of another work and school week.

The time: 5:43 AM. The date: Friday, 9 May 1980. The place: The shipping channel between Egmont Key and Ft. DeSoto Park.

When ships come into or out of the Port of Tampa, they have to be guided in or out by a harbor pilot so that these ships can be safely navigated through Tampa Bay and into the Port of Tampa. Back then, there was a major obstacle: The old Sunshine Skyway Bridge with its 864-foot center span, which was long enough for ships of the 1950’s. Aboard a pilot boat out of Egmont Key, harbor pilot John Lerro reported to duty aboard a vessel that came inbound from Houston a few days earlier; that vessel is the Summit Venture, a 606-foot freighter coming in to Tampa to take on a load of phosphate for somewhere in a distant part of the world.

Everything seems OK, until a severe thunderstorm arrives sometime after 7 AM. Visibility was reduced to zero and that John Lerro got very concerned. Would he miss the critical turn at Buoys 1A and 2A to avoid the Sunshine Skyway’s tall channel piers? After all, when you are on Interstate 275 and visibility drops to near zero, you take any and all measures to prevent a collision such as exiting the highway and waiting somewhere until the rain lets up.

Then, at 7:38 AM on Friday, 9 May 1980, Interstate 275 Florida history – and the history of the Tampa Bay region – would change forever, as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned.

The rains kept raging on preventing any visibility whatsoever. Then – out of nowhere – the Summit Venture was on a collision course with the southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and its Support Pier 2-S, the anchor pier just south of the main channel Pier 1-S that anchors the south cantilever and provides the transition from through truss to deck truss. John Lerro, the harbor pilot, tries everything to stop the ship from colliding with the bridge including reversing the engines and dropping the anchor.

Then impact. Impact with support Pier 2-S, the anchor pier which supports the south cantilever and is the transitional from the cantilever through truss to the deck truss.

Pier 2-S along with Pier 3-S and Pier 4-S make up part of the deck truss system that helps hold the cantilevers in place. Beyond Pier 4-S to Pier 16-S make up the deck girder section which leads back out to the low level trestle section of the Sunshine Skyway.

Compare the impact with Pier 2-S to a soda can as it relates to a compact car. The compact car has more mass than the soda can. Therefore, upon impact the soda can is crushed by the mass of the compact car. The same thing with the Summit Venture upon impact with Pier 2-S: After all, Pier 2-S was not designed for impact from a large vessel and, upon impact, Pier 2-S was sheared off its supports like a heavy sword.

Upon loss of support by Pier 2-S, the impact started a chain of events which would result in the deck truss from Pier 3-S northward plus the through truss from Pier 2-S to the point north of Pier 1-S (the main channel pier to the south of the shipping channel) collapsing into the churning waters of Tampa Bay below, including the south anchor arm and cantilever arm. Part of the span landed on the bow of the Summit Venture and the span collapsed by the roadway tilting to the east and dropping 150 feet into Tampa Bay. As the bridge was falling into Tampa Bay Pier 1-S was uncovered with no span on its top. With no south cantilever span and anchor arm, the suspended center span was being held up by the north cantilever arm and anchor arm but the northern arm could not take the load of the suspended center span on its own. The suspended center span tilted and fell into Tampa Bay as well.

In the end, thirty five people lost their lives that fateful morning including a few on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami. There were only two survivors: Richard Hornbuckle, who managed to stop his Buick Skylark a mere 14 inches from the abyss on the northern arm and Wesley McIntire, who drove off the broken end of the southbound span and survived by swimming to the top and being rescued by the Summit Venture crew.


I was going to a private high school on the day the Sunshine Skyway fell, and I was getting ready for school that morning. Back in 1980, we did not have Bay News 9 yet (in fact, my house did not have cable service yet – just an outdoor antenna receiving Channels 8, 10 or 13). Instead, I had a little AM radio tuned to WSUN-AM 620 listening to music while I was getting ready for school. Suddenly, Ronald J. Evin, the news director for WSUN at the time, came on with a special bulletin: A ship was ready to hit the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Well, I thought, it was probably another boat that would bump into the fender system and the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span would still be there. Or as I thought.

Once at school the TV was on and tuned to WTVT Channel 13, which was a CBS affiliate at the time. (Remember the programming that used to be there from a long time ago when WTVT was a CBS affiliate? WTVT became a FOX affiliate in the Great Tampa Bay Television Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTVT has been a FOX Owned and Operated station since.) Once I saw the pictures for the first time I was totally shocked: The southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway was gone. I could not believe it!

When I got home, I watched WTVT Channel 13’s Pulse News at 6 PM on TV. This is when reality sank in: The Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span was gone. Images of the broken span, Pier 1-S (the tall channel pier that looks different than the other Sunshine Skyway channel piers due to repairs made to it in 1969, two years before the Sunshine Skyway southbound span opened for traffic), Richard Hornbuckle’s Buick Skylark stopped 14 inches away from the abyss and the Summit Venture with bridge debris on its bow were constantly being shown. Then at 7 PM the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was on; the first news story of the CBS newscast was the Sunshine Skyway disaster.

Two days later, when the northbound span was converted to handle two way traffic my mother, grandmother and I took a Sunday ride to check out the damage: A southbound span that was damaged beyond imagination, and a tall channel pier that stood out from the rest of the main channel piers on the Sunshine Skyway – Pier 1-S – which would stand out as an icon of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge for the next several years. Everyone else was checking it out too.

Besides, my mother was doing the driving – I haven’t received my driver’s license yet. The car I had was a 1974 Ford Mustang II and all it had was just an AM radio – no AM/FM/CD like you see in today’s cars and SUV’s. In fact, no entertainment center where you can listen to AM, FM, Sirius XM Satellite Radio or your own MP3 music on a flash drive. The radio was fixed onto WSUN AM 620 just like my little radio at home.

38 years later, things have changed over the years since the Sunshine Skyway tragedy.

First of all, I graduated from high school in 1983 and I had to write a senior year thesis. The subject? The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, from building to collapse.

In 1981, there were decisions that had to be made as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned. Rebuild the cantilever bridge or replace it with a new bridge? Florida Governor Bob Graham made the decision that would change the signature of the Tampa Bay region forever: A new, cable-stayed four lane Sunshine Skyway Bridge that met interstate highway standards. After all, Interstate 275 was built all the way to Queensboro Av S in south St. Petersburg with another section getting underway which would extend the highway to 39 Av S with interchanges at 22 Av S (Exit 19) and 26 Av S (Exit 18) and the ultimate goal was to connect Interstate 275 with the newly extended Interstate 75 to Naples and Miami. Besides, the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge did not meet interstate standards.

Construction on the new Sunshine Skyway began in 1982. On 30 April 1987, five years after construction started and a dedication ceremony held a few months earlier in February 1987, the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened to traffic. Shortly thereafter I would graduate from St. Petersburg Junior College (today’s St. Petersburg College) with my Associates’ degree.

Right after the new Sunshine Skyway opened both the old and new Sunshine Skyway bridges would stand next to each other. In 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway – both northbound and southbound spans including all the main channel piers including Pier 1-S, the channel pier that stood out after the Sunshine Skyway tragedy – was demolished. What was left of the northbound and southbound spans were converted into fishing piers as they are today.

Remembering the Sunshine Skyway Tragedy

When I wrote a similar blog entry five years ago in 2010 I paid a visit on Sunday, 9 May 2010 to the fishing pier on the northern end of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The center section including its signature main channel piers is long gone, but as I was standing at the end of the fishing pier I began to realize the bridge that used to be from its beginnings in 1954 as a single span and the second span in 1971 to the collapse in 1980 and what happened afterward. I took a look around the fishing pier and bait shop and all I found was nothing more than a little poster put up by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – the department responsible for Florida’s state parks and recreation areas including the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers – that told of the tragedy that took place on 9 May 1980.

Here’s a comment I left over at the St. Petersburg Times website discussing where people were when the Sunshine Skyway collapsed:

I have heard that there is some kind of memorial being put up at the fishing pier to remember the people whose lives were cut short by what happened. Perhaps a memorial – maybe a small obelisk structure consisting of a replica of the two tall channel piers (on the southbound span, the north channel pier – Pier 1N – had the identical look to their 1954 counterparts while the south channel pier – Pier 1S – had a different architectural look after repairs were made in 1969) – should be constructed as a memorial to the old Sunshine Skyway as well as the 35 people that perished that frightful morning. Besides, we remember people that we lost with monuments and memorials, especially World War II.

There’s already a memorial to the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, which sunk just west of the old Sunshine Skyway in January 1980 after colliding with an oil tanker. I think the State of Florida ought to consider a memorial at the fishing pier of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge, built with private donations, as a reminder of the tragedy that happened that fateful morning of Friday, 9 May 1980 and afterward as well as triumph with the construction of the new bridge.

Well, fast forward five years to 2015. Saturday, 9 May 2015 to be exact. A memorial to the Sunshine Skyway tragedy would become reality thanks to a private individual.

Bill DeYoung wrote an excellent book of the true story of the Tampa Bay region’s signature bridge and of the events that led up to the tragedy at the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span on 9 May 1980. Bill’s book expertly documents the Sunshine Skyway from when it was built in 1954 and the twin southbound span in 1971 until tragedy struck that fateful Friday morning in May 1980.

At the same time the book was being promoted, there was strong interest for a memorial dedicated to the 35 people that lost their lives on 9 May 1980. A donation drive ensued, and with the blessing of the State of Florida to allow a monument to be constructed at the North Skyway Rest Area a memorial dedicated to the memory of the 35 people that lost their lives on the Sunshine Skyway that fateful morning became reality.

That memorial was dedicated at a public ceremony on Saturday, 9 May 2015. I paid a visit to the newly erected memorial later in the afternoon and I would say that it is a very beautiful and respectful memorial.

Now there are two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area: One is the memorial to the USCGC Blackthorn which sank in Tampa Bay when it collided with the tanker Capricorn on 28 January 1980, and the other memorial of course is the memorial to the thirty five persons that lost their lives when the Sunshine Skyway was hit by the Summit Venture on Friday, 9 May 1980 at 7:38 AM. Both memorials are part of the North Skyway Rest Area and are open 24 hours a day; simply take the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area from Interstate 275 and follow the signs for the rest area. Once in the rest area both memorials are on the left; the Skyway memorial is the first memorial just before you approach the rest area building and the Blackthorn memorial is the second memorial across the drive from the rest area building. There is ample parking provided in the rest area and nighttime security is provided for peace of mind.

CONSTRUCTION ALERT: Currently as of May 2018 the Sunshine Skyway’s north rest area is undergoing a complete reconstruction of the rest area building. The Sunshine Skyway and Blackthorn memorials are still open but please be sure to park only in areas that are not blocked off by barricades, follow all temporary traffic control devices and most importantly do not enter any construction areas. The Sunshine Skyway’s south rest area on the Manatee County side is still open.

I highly recommend Bill DeYoung’s book, and you can purchase it from Amazon in either traditional hard copy format or in electronic Amazon Kindle format which you can read on practically any device such as your desktop or laptop computer, iPhone, iPad, Android – you name it. This book is the Sunshine Skyway tragedy well researched and done.

With two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area, perhaps the Florida DOT should update the signage on the Interstate 275 mainline just before the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area. Presently the signage is just for the Blackthorn memorial.

In respect to the thirty five people who perished that fateful morning on Friday, 9 May 1980, here is a closeup picture of the newly dedicated monument with the names of the thirty five people who perished that day – The Day The Skyway Fell (click on the photo to enlarge):

Facebook Account Needed for Commenting on Posts

For years since the Interstate 275 Florida Blog existed on Blogger I have allowed anonymous commenting with moderation.  Most of the comments were OK but there were some comments that I have had to disapprove on the rare few occasions.

Now that we’re on WordPress, a great feature of WordPress is that you can use a plugin to allow anyone with a Facebook account to comment.  I have noticed that when users use their Facebook account to comment on a blog entry there is more accountability as to who is posting comments.  In fact, about a couple of months ago the Tampa Bay Times switched to a commenting system which requires a Facebook account when their website was revamped; before then you could have either a Facebook account or a site registration account in order to comment.

So, I am making a major change to my commenting policy when it comes to commenting on blog entries here at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.  It will expand soon to my other blog, the Edward Ringwald Blog, when I get that blog transitioned from Blogger to WordPress.  In order to comment on a blog entry, you will need a Facebook account.

Don’t have a Facebook account?  No worries!  It’s as simple as visiting Facebook’s home page and registering for an account.


The Interstate 275 Florida Blog: Now on WordPress!

As you’re probably aware, the Interstate 275 Florida Website has been around since 2003 and the Interstate 275 Blog has been around since 2007.  When I started the Interstate 275 Blog I hosted it on Blogger which is easy to use for the beginner who wants to get into blogging.  I agree, Blogger has a lot of good features that are easy to use, and I can’t complain about that!

But over the years, I needed something better to help manage the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.  When I changed web hosting companies in January 2018 my new web hosting provider, InMotion Hosting, gives me more for my money when it comes to hosting not only the Interstate 275 Florida website but my other websites,, and my website portal,  The ability to host blogs and forums and a whole lot more, more than what my previous web hosting provider had.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about WordPress, and I like the better capabilities that WordPress provides over Blogger.  So, I went ahead and installed WordPress on my site and I was extremely impressed at the look and feel over Blogger.

Right after I completed installation of WordPress it was just a matter of fine tuning WordPress to my liking including adding the cover pictures to the elements of the blog.  Then it came time to import the blog entries from Blogger over to WordPress.

And I am very impressed!  That said, I want to say welcome to the new home of the Interstate 275 Blog, powered by WordPress.

From this day forward, all new posts for the Interstate 275 Florida Blog will be on the WordPress platform.  For the time being, the Interstate 275 Florida Blog on the Blogger platform will be maintained as a legacy blog meaning no new entries or updates will be made on the Blogger platform.  Eventually, I intend to set it up so that if you go to a blog entry on the Blogger platform you will be redirected to the new WordPress platform.

One more thing, and this is just a reminder on commenting:  When you comment on an entry, please keep it clean as the Interstate 275 Florida Website and Blog are family friendly sites, and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way.  In addition, you may want to review the Community Guidelines for the Interstate 275 Florida Blog over at my website portal,

Once again, welcome to the new home of the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, proudly powered by WordPress!

The Skyway 10K Run on Sunday, 4 March 2018

As you are probably aware, the Skyway 10K Run will be taking place the morning of Sunday, 4 March 2018.  The run will take place in the morning hours utilizing the northbound lanes of the Sunshine Skyway.

From 4 AM to about 10 AM the northbound lanes of the Sunshine Skyway carrying Interstate 275 traffic in the direction of St. Petersburg will be closed for the event.  What that means is during those hours if you need to get from Bradenton, Ellenton, Parrish or anywhere in Manatee County to St. Petersburg you will have to use Interstate 75 north to either the Selmon Crosstown Expressway or Interstate 4 in Tampa and head west across the Howard Frankland or Gandy Bridges into St. Petersburg.

Southbound Interstate 275 traffic crossing the Sunshine Skyway is not affected; however, traffic delays are quite possible.  If you are headed to the Florida Railroad Museum, especially for the 2 PM Murder Mystery Dinner Train, you will want to keep on reading.

As traffic delays are possible even after the Skyway 10K Run has ended, if you are coming from St. Petersburg for Sunday’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish you will want to leave early and give yourself extra time to get to the museum’s station facilities in Parrish so that you can pick up your tickets at the ticket office and gift shop and be in the boarding area ready to board the train.  Boarding for the Murder Mystery Dinner Train begins at 1:30 PM and the train departs at 2 PM.  Same thing if you are going to the Florida Railroad Museum for their regularly scheduled 11 AM train ride – again, if you’re coming from St. Petersburg be sure to leave early and give yourself extra time to get your tickets.

To recap, the Skyway 10K Run will be held on the morning of Sunday, 4 March 2018.  Only the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 crossing the Sunshine Skyway will be closed for the duration of the event, reopening sometime around 10 AM.  The southbound lanes are not affected, but traffic delays are possible especially during and for some time after the event.

On the other hand, if you are participating in the Skyway 10K Run, it is very important that you attend their pre-race expo being held at Tropicana Field the day before the race (Saturday, 3 March 2018) as the race organizers will give you your race packet and your bus assignment.  The Skyway 10K Run web site has all the details you need.

Whether you’re headed south across the Sunshine Skyway to ride the Murder Mystery Dinner Train at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish or you are one of the few participating in the Skyway 10K Run on Sunday, 4 March 2018, be safe and have fun!


Safety Tips for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse will be upon us this Monday, 21 August 2017!  What happens is that the Moon blocks out the Sun’s view for a brief period of time, which may lead to nighttime-like conditions when the eclipse passes us by in the Tampa Bay region.
According to Bay News 9, the Tampa Bay region should see the maximum of the partial total eclipse sometime around 1451 (2:51 PM) on Monday, 21 August 2017.   Some school districts across the Tampa Bay region are allowing students to be absent as an excused day from school; you will want to check with your local school district for the specifics.
Here are some eclipse safety tips as eclipse day draws nearer (some of the eclipse safety tips are from NASA’s 2017 Eclipse Safety page):
  • Most importantly:  Never, never look at the eclipse with the naked eye or with your regular eyeglasses on including sunglasses!  It will be so bright that eyesight damage can result!
  • The only way to view the eclipse safely without endangering your eyesight is the use of eclipse glasses or viewers that comply with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard.  If you purchase a pair of those safety glasses, make sure that it reads that it complies with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard. 
  • If you happen to be driving on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region when the eclipse hits, never, never stop on either shoulder on the Interstate 275 mainline or any exit ramp!  It is illegal pursuant to Section 316.1945 of the Florida Statutes and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper can issue you a citation for stopping on the Interstate 275 shoulders or mainline.  Besides, it’s also very dangerous.  Instead, stop in a safer place if you want to view the eclipse.
  • The same thing goes for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge – again, do not stop anywhere on the bridge including the 191-foot high main span.  Be aware that surveillance cameras monitored by the Florida Highway Patrol monitor all activity on the Sunshine Skyway main span and if you are seen stopping on the shoulder of the Sunshine Skyway, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper will be dispatched to see what is going on.  If you want to view the eclipse from the Sunshine Skyway area, use the rest areas or the fishing piers instead – it’s much safer. 
  • When it gets momentarily dark during the maximum totality of the partial total eclipse, turn on your headlights even if you have automatic daytime running lamps.  This will turn on your taillights and you can be seen better.
  • Again, do not look at the eclipse with the naked eye or with your glasses (including sunglasses) on.  It will be so bright that eyesight damage – in fact, permanent eyesight damage – can result. 
If you’re wondering where on Interstate 275’s parent, Interstate 75, you can see the total solar eclipse in its entirety where it will get dark for about two minutes, it will take place in Tennessee between Cleveland just north of Chattanooga and Farragut just west of Knoxville, with the center of the totality between Athens and Sweetwater on US 11, which parallels Interstate 75 in central and southern Tennessee.  In fact, our Interstate 275 counterpart in Knoxville (actually a spur from Interstate 40 to Interstates 75 and 640) lies just outside the path of eclipse totality.

As NASA says, a solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles.  Let’s be safe out there when the eclipse arrives on Monday, 21 August 2017 and you will have a memorable experience!