What does this mean for you? For those headed to St. Petersburg from the airport, that will mean no more having to make those quick weave movements to get where you want to go. I know, the new ramps will be a little confusing at first but we’ll get used to it, so here it goes as to how you will exit Tampa International Airport:
If you are headed to Interstate 275:
You will follow a new flyover bridge which will soar about 70 feet high at its peak, offering a great view of Tampa Bay and the Howard Frankland Bridge as you head south. After the flyover there will be a temporary ramp which will put you in position for Interstate 275.
If you are headed to the Veterans Expressway or Clearwater via FL 60:
From what I understand there will be two new ramps, one a permanent and one a temporary ramp. Traffic headed towards the Veterans Expressway will use the new permanent ramp while traffic headed to Clearwater will use the temporary ramp. I believe this arrangement will help prevent these somehow dangerous weaving manuevers on FL 60 westbound just after you leave the airport.
Again I know it will be confusing at first but these changes are needed as work progresses on the Tampa Airport interchanges project which I believe will wrap up around 2010 according to the Florida DOT. It is very crucial when traffic is shifted to a new pattern so that the contractor can proceed on the next phase of the project; after all, when the improvements were planned many years ago it has to be done in a sequence that will minimize any disruption to traffic coming into and out of the airport. You got people headed to the airport trying to make their flight and you can’t have any delays for motorists accessing the airport.
So, the best advice is when the new flyover ramps open watch the signs carefully when you exit Tampa International Airport, especially if you are a visitor to the Tampa Bay area and drive a rental car. I think the new ramps will be the best improvement ever made since the Tampa International Airport as we know today opened in 1971.
And by the way, while we are on the subject of Interstate 275:
If you have driven on Interstate 275 lately between Exit 26 (54 Av N) and Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd./FL 694) you will by now have noticed the newly grinded concrete pavement as a part of the concrete rehabilitation project taking place. I got to agree, the newly grinded concrete pavement is much better and it improves the ride every time you drive Interstate 275 in this area. Moreover, a new mast arm traffic signal is in operation at Gandy Blvd. from the northbound Interstate 275 exit ramp which is a much better improvement than the old traffic signals on the span wire and Gandy Blvd. got an asphalt pavement makeover as well.
Let’s head south to Interstate 175, one of the feeders serving downtown St. Petersburg. If you have driven Interstate 175 lately you will have noticed the newly grinded concrete pavement just like the concrete pavement on Interstate 275 mentioned earlier. In addition to the concrete pavement rehabilitation, signage is being replaced on Interstate 175 which means new signs! The original signage was in need of replacement as the original signage was installed when Interstate 175 opened back in 1979.
If you haven’t been by Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg lately, you’re in for a treat! You are probably asking yourself when I will get pictures of the newly installed signage on Interstate 175 to feature on the Interstate 175 page here at Interstate275Florida.com; that will probably be soon.
Yes, I know, you have to be somewhere and you probably either overrun the intended exit or you did not mean to go onto Interstate 275. However, according to section 316.1985 of the Florida Statutes, it’s the law: Backing up on Interstate 275 is illegal. Not only it’s illegal, it’s dangerous.
Consider this: Realize you are on a high speed interstate highway such as Interstate 275 and everyone is going in the same direction as you are. You know that the emergency lane is there in case your vehicle has a breakdown. Anytime someone tries to back up to save a precious few minutes, you are putting yourself, your passengers, and your fellow motorists in danger.
Now here’s what you can do if in the event you overrun your exit or enter Interstate 275 by mistake:
Overrunning your exit: Simply go on to the next exit, even if the next exit happens to be across the Howard Frankland Bridge, and turn around there. Speaking of the Howard Frankland Bridge, the closest exits where you can make a legal turnaround are Exit 39A (Kennedy Blvd./FL 60 East) for northbound and Exit 32 (4 St N/FL 687) for southbound Interstate 275.
Entered Interstate 275 by mistake: Do not back up under any circumstances – instead, drive on to the next exit, where you can turn around and return to where you entered Interstate 275.
Those precious few minutes that you try to save by backing up illegally on Interstate 275 isn’t worth it. Not only you could get written up with a Florida Uniform Traffic Citation courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol (or any other law enforcement agency), you could end up involved in an accident and possibly end up in the ER at Bayfront Medical Center or elsewhere. Believe me, I would rather watch one of my favorite TV shows, ER, than end up in the real ER by accident. Moreover, your attempt to save some time can cost you money in the long run, especially in fines and medical expenses if an accident occurs.
So, the simplest explanation: Don’t back up on Interstate 275 (or any other interstate highway in the Tampa Bay area) under any circumstances! It only takes just a few minutes to the next exit!
A description of the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 is available simply by clicking on this link to go to the page on Fletcher Avenue, Bearss Avenue and the northern Interstate 275 terminus in the Tampa section of Interstate275Florida.com. Scroll down about two thirds of the way and you can check out the pictures I have of Exit 274, northbound and southbound Interstate 275 and perspective from Interstate 75. While you are there check out the background information at the top of the page.
In my opinion, it’s a splendid idea to widen Interstate 75 from Interstate 275 to FL 52 and revise the exit ramps to FL 56 from northbound Interstate 75. However, more is needed not only for those living in Pasco County and commuting to Tampa daily but for those in neighboring New Tampa in Hillsborough County as well. Here is my suggestion as to what the Florida DOT should additionally consider in planning the proposed improvements to Interstate 75:
Now I want to hear your suggestions. Please feel free to post a reply with what you think on the proposed Interstate 75 expension.
If you are one of those motorists who make Interstate 175 a part of your morning commute, chances are you have seen construction taking place. What you are seeing is a reconstruction project similar to that on Interstate 375 done in 2006.
Much like what was done on Interstate 375, this project will involve the following according to the Florida DOT’s Tampa Bay Interstates site:
1. Replacement of concrete slabs where needed such as cracked slabs
2. Resurfacing of the concrete surface for a smooth travel experience
3. And most importantly, replacement of signage as needed (some of the signage is there from day one when Interstate 175 was opened around 1979)
Until the work is completed, you may see lane shifts and sometimes closures as needed. I know, it’s an inconvenience to all but we have to endure these conditions if we want better roads. For more information you may want to check out the Florida DOT’s Tampa Bay Interstates site at MyTBI.com and select the Interstate 175 icon at the top of the page. Additionally, for more information on Interstate 175 you may want to check out my Interstate 175 page at Interstate275Florida.com.
After all, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has rail based mass transit. So does Washington DC and Baltimore. So does Los Angeles. Don’t forget, Orlando is getting rail based mass transit soon. But if we Tampa Bay area residents don’t do anything about fixing our transit issues after Interstate 275 is reconstructed this is what navigating the Tampa Bay area will be like: New York City without the subway or commuter rail (and imagine the gridlock).
We experienced another tragedy with the collapse of the bridge that carries Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis on 1 August 2007. From seeing the video of the collapse as it happened it is believed that there are injuries and deaths as a result of the bridge collapse. But before I go on further, please let me say that my thoughts go out to the families affected by this bridge collapse.
It brings back memories of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster that happened on 9 May 1980. For most of us living in the Tampa Bay area around that time we definitely remember what happened. The freighter Summit Venture collided with the southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a blinding rainstorm at 7:38 AM, first striking a major channel pier and then striking the pier immediately south of the major channel pier. This pier – which held up the south cantilever – upon impact by the ship and the pier being sheared off at the base began a series of events that led to 1,260 feet of concrete and steel dropped 150 feet into Tampa Bay taking with it 35 lives including several on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami. Only two people survived this terrible tribulation: Richard Hornbuckle who managed to stop his Buick only 14 inches from going over the edge and Wesley McIntire who went off the bridge but managed to survive by escaping from his pickup truck and swimming upwards to the surface where he was rescued by the crew of the Summit Venture.
I remember that morning when I was getting ready for school and it was raining. Then I heard on the radio that a ship was on a collision course with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Later on when I saw the pictures on TV at school I was shocked to see a Sunshine Skyway Bridge missing a tooth: 1,260 feet of bridge from just south of the north main channel pier to the pier south of the pier that was destroyed by the ship. The images of these channel piers plus the wreckage on the bow of the Summit Venture would be indeed ingrained in our memories for the forseeable future. For the next seven years the monument to disaster on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge would be that main channel pier on the south side of the shipping channel that held up the southbound span (that’s the channel pier that looked different than the other three main channel piers as a result of repairs done in 1969, two years before the southbound span opened in 1971). That monument to disaster was torn down in 1991 when the old Sunshine Skyway was demolished.
Back when the Sunshine Skyway fell in 1980 Interstate 275 was not part of the Sunshine Skyway yet – that would come seven years later when the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened and Interstate 275 was completed through St. Petersburg. The rest of the Sunshine Skyway’s minor bridges and highway were brought up to interstate standards including the drawbridges that were torn down and reconstructed as high level fixed span bridges in the early 1990’s. After all, none of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans (1954 and 1971) were built to interstate standards. Right after the tragedy there was talk of not including the Sunshine Skyway with Interstate 275; however, the construction of Interstate 275 was a crucial asset to the Tampa Bay area and, as such, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we know it today is that crucial link to Interstate 275.
As for the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis, it carries Interstate 35W as it crosses the Mississippi River and through metropolitan Minneapolis. A companion interstate highway, Interstate 35E, carries traffic through St. Paul, which is Minnesota’s state capital. Interstate 35 is unique in that it has two route designations as it passes through two metropolises, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Back when the Interstate Highway System was planned these letter suffixes were allowed but the United States DOT’s Federal Highway Administration, acting on the advice of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), did away with the suffixes and no longer allowed their use. However, the Interstate 35W and 35E designations were allowed to be grandfathered. Here in the Tampa Bay area when Interstate 75 was being constructed it was planned for Interstate 75 to go through the metropolitan areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg and the bypass route was planned to be Interstate 75E. The routes were constructed but the numbering didn’t happen as planned as letter suffixes were no longer allowed when the bypass route was being planned. Today Interstate 75 runs on the newly constructed bypass route that takes it east of Tampa and the original Interstate 75 that goes into Tampa and St. Petersburg is today’s Interstate 275.
Please feel free to browse the Interstate 275 Florida site and be sure to check out the Sunshine Skyway Bridge page. Your comments and reflections, especially about the recent bridge collapse tragedy in Minneapolis, are always welcome.
It’s the summer season already, and by now if not already the summer thundershowers common to the Tampa Bay area are here. For those who are visiting us or on the afternoon commute home from work here are some tips for when you encounter our summer thundershowers on Interstate 275.
1. Most importantly, reduce your speed when you approach the rain and the trail of brake lights. 65 or 70 mph does not mean 65 or 70 mph all the time – you are supposed to drive in a reasonable and prudent manner when you approach an area of reduced visibility not only with rain but smoke or fog.
2. Ease up on your accelerator and don’t attempt to stop suddenly – the oily slick interstate created by the rain is a recipe for an accident caused by skidding. If you have to use your brakes, tap on them lightly but slowly.
3. Give driving your 100% attention especially during the summer thundershowers – the cell phone call can wait until you are in a safe place.
4. The only time you want to use your 4-way flashers is if you are pulled over in an emergency situation. 4-way flashers are not meant to be used while your vehicle is in motion; in heavy rain someone can run into you thinking that you are stopped. Speaking of emergency situations if your vehicle breaks down for any reason please by all means pull over to the nearest shoulder so that you are not obstructing traffic in any way.
5. Turn on your headlights, even if you have daytime running lamps. The daytime running lamps do not turn on your vehicle’s rear tail lights when you need it. Remember to turn them off when you reach your destination to avoid a dead battery. Besides, having headlights on during rain as well as fog or smoke is mandatory per Florida Statutes.
6. Allow extra time to get to your destination, especially if you have to be somewhere at a given time. Leave early if you can.
7. Make sure your wipers and tires are in excellent condition for the road. Also check your windshield washer reservoir periodically and replenish as needed. Sometimes a light rain occurs and you have to use your windshield washers on the road as well.
8. If you breakdown on Interstate 275 or any other highway in the Tampa Bay area, pull over in a safe place such as the nearest shoulder. You may call *FHP (*347) on your cell phone to request a road ranger be sent to your location.
If we can follow these safe practices for navigating Interstate 275 during the summer thundershowers we can get to our destinations safely especially during the rain! If you have any other safety tips for summer thunderstorm driving please feel free to reply at any time. Thanks!
Right now the Florida DOT is constructing a flyover ramp from westbound Bruce B Downs to southbound Interstate 75 in order to help ease traffic flow as traffic backs up on Bruce B Downs waiting for the light to change so that traffic can enter Interstate 75 southbound. That might sound good for you New Tampa residents out there, but I think that’s not enough.
Enter the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, the purveyor of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and its reversible upper deck from Brandon to downtown Tampa. Ever since that one pier of the upper deck sank during construction a few years ago the expressway authority has been embroiled into a lot of controversy over the years leading to calls for abolition of the expressway authority from a few Florida legislators among other things.
Now the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority has something on its planning books: A connector highway that would connect New Tampa with Interstate 275. This highway, dubbed the New Tampa Connector, would be a toll road which would be privately operated. That’s right, privately operated with tolls that could be so expensive that no one could afford to pay to drive on that road. At least for 30 years, perhaps, according to an article in the Tampa Tribune on 26 February 2006.
In my opinion, the New Tampa Connector road is not needed. Why?
Before I go on further, for those people stumbling onto this blog that don’t know where New Tampa is, it is a community situated northeast of Tampa on Bruce B Downs Blvd., which is the main street through this community. New Tampa was built by developers in the 1990’s, spurred by the completion of Interstate 75 and the construction of an interchange at Bruce B Downs Blvd. in the late 1980’s. Today New Tampa is a progressive community with apartments, condominiums, shopping centers, and schools. New Tampa is part of the City of Tampa by way of annexation (those of you that live in New Tampa remember at one point secession from the City of Tampa and forming Hillsborough County’s fourth incorporated city called New Tampa … well, that’s another story).
North of Bruce B Downs Blvd. on Interstate 75 (Exit 270) is the northern terminus of Interstate 275, Exit 274. This is where the extension of Interstate 75 from the Hillsborough-Pasco County line to Miami took place in leaps and bounds with early segments around Ft. Myers in the late 1970’s. The Alligator Alley connecting Naples with Ft. Lauderdale was reconstructed and absorbed into Interstate 75 around 1991, creating a continuous interstate highway from FL 826 in Miami to the Canadian Border in Sault St. Marie, Michigan.
Now what’s so special about the Interstate 275 northern terminus? It’s simple: The Interstate 275 northern terminus only features northbound entry onto and southbound exit from Interstate 75, while the southern terminus of Interstate 275 in Manatee County near Ellenton is a full access interchange.
Presently those who want to enter Interstate 275 southbound from Interstate 75 northbound cannot directly do so – instead, motorists must go to the next exit on Interstate 75 northbound, Exit 275/FL 56, and turn around there.
So, my suggestion would be for the Florida DOT to consider converting the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 from a partial access interchange to a full access interchange. Ramps cound be built with capacity for the commuter traffic that would use it in the morning and in the evening. The ramp from northbound Interstate 75 to southbound Interstate 275 would be constructed as a gradual loop with a right exit from Interstate 75 northbound, then over a flyover bridge to Interstate 275 southbound entering on the right hand side. On the other hand, the ramp from northbound Interstate 275 to southbound Interstate 75 would be a gradual right curve ramp with two lanes.
Then Interstate 75 would be widened from the current four lanes to six lanes from Interstate 275 to Bruce B Downs Blvd with the capability for expansion later on down the road. Especially on the Interstate 75 southbound lanes, the third right lane would be needed to avert traffic backups on the Interstate 75 southbound mainline headed towards Bruce B Downs Blvd.
If the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 would be converted from partial to full access it would give New Tampa residents two better options to get to downtown Tampa in the morning: Either use the new flyover from westbound Bruce B Downs or head north on Interstate 75 for only four miles to the Interstate 275 northern terminus.
But in the long run, fixing and widening roads is not the cure-all: The Tampa Bay area needs a rail-based mass transit system in order to cope with the increasing demand. But that’s a topic for another blog entry altogether.