Variable Message Signs on Interstate 275

If you have noticed while you are driving on Interstate 275 lately you may have seen one of those funny looking overhead signs that have been recently installed in St. Petersburg from Exit 26 (54 Av N) across the Howard Frankland Bridge to Exit 39 (FL 60/Kennedy Blvd/Tampa International Airport). These signs are variable message signs which look like the variable message signs already used in the Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale/Miami metro areas as well as the Florida’s Turnpike.

How will these variable message signs benefit you, the Interstate 275 motorist?

Imagine getting on Interstate 275 north at Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd) and you are headed to Tampa via the Howard Frankland Bridge. You have already passed the last opportunity to exit Interstate 275 at Exit 30 (FL 686/Roosevelt Blvd) and you just passed under the 4 St N overpass at Exit 32. Suddenly – you see a traffic jam for miles on the Howard Frankland! You say to yourself that if you have known about it earlier you would have taken the Gandy Bridge into Tampa. Besides, you got to be somewhere in Tampa for a meeting.

Now with the variable message signs being installed important messages will be conveyed to motorists. For instance, in case of an accident or other breakdown on the Howard Frankland northbound causing a traffic tie up the variable message signs would advise you to use the Gandy Bridge into Tampa and give you an opportunity to exit Interstate 275 northbound at Exits 28 or 30 so that you can use the Gandy Bridge (and the Crosstown Expressway, especially if you are headed downtown) into Tampa. As you managed to get around the Howard Frankland bottleneck by being well informed and taking the Gandy Bridge into Tampa, you’ll be there for that meeting instead of being stuck in traffic!

Already one of the variable message signs are in operation on southbound Interstate 275 before you get to Exit 26 (54 Av N). It’s being used to warn motorists of the temporary closure of the ramp onto Interstate 275 (Exit 23A) due to the tanker truck fire that happened weeks ago (and the Florida DOT is doing everything possible to get this ramp repaired and back in service – great job Florida DOT!) as well as informing motorists of parking conditions at Tropicana Field on Tampa Bay Devil Rays game days and where to exit for other downtown St. Petersburg events. It’s in the same location where an older variable message sign was located for many years.

Presently the variable message signs are being installed from north of Exit 26 (54 Av N) in St. Petersburg to north of Exit 53 (Bearss Avenue) in Tampa, with a gap from Exit 39 (FL 60) to Exit 44 (Ashley Drive/Tampa Street) due to upcoming major reconstruction for this segment of Interstate 275 in Tampa just around the corner; it would not be practical to install the variable message signs on this segment until the reconstruction is done. For more information on the upcoming Interstate 275 reconstruction in Tampa check out the Florida DOT’s Tampa Bay Interstates website.

Remember, you can also find out traffic information not only for Interstate 275 but for all the major highways in the Tampa Bay area by calling 511 or visiting the 511 Tampa Bay website.

You’ll enjoy the new variable message signs when it’s all installed and done. Let me know what you think of the new variable message signs going up on Interstate 275.

The Interstate 375 Overpass Fire

Wednesday evening, 28 March 2007.

The flyover ramp from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 eastbound was quiet. The evening commute wrapped up a few hours ago.

Until sometime before 11 PM: A gasoline tanker trailer on its way to Sarasota to deliver fuel to the many convenience stores there did not make it to its destinations – instead, tragedy unfolded as the driver of the tanker trailer, thinking he may have still been on Interstate 275 headed south, exited onto Interstate 375 eastbound. Not knowing the fact that the driver was on a 50 mph ramp instead of the 65 mph highway, the tanker burst into flames as the driver tried to negotiate the near-sharp flyover ramp.

The tragic result was that the driver of the tanker truck passed away and a large fire ensued on the flyover ramp. As the flyover ramp goes over a City of St. Petersburg maintenance yard, several pieces of equipment owned by the City were lost as the gasoline from the tanker truck rained down from the overpass above.

The next morning engineers from the Florida DOT surveyed the damage to the overpass as a result of the tanker fire. It was concluded that a span of the overpass needed to be replaced as the concrete damaged in the fire was in no condition to let traffic back on.

Looking at the entrance to Interstate 375 eastbound from Interstate 275 southbound the morning after, 29 March 2007

With the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg being held the next day and the season home opener of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a week away at Tropicana Field (plus the so many commuters that regularly use this ramp) how do you manage to get by with one less exit ramp into downtown St. Petersburg? Interstate 375’s cousin to the south, Interstate 175, provided the answer along with a few alternate routes into downtown St. Petersburg. From what I understand, these events got off without a hitch traffic wise.

However, I believe several factors contributed to this tragic event. I wrote the following letter to the St. Petersburg Times in response to an article published on Saturday, 31 March 2007:

When this section of Interstate 275 was built in 1977 I believe the exit onto Interstate 375 (Exit 23A) should have been constructed as a right hand exit with access to 5th Avenue North. However, when the interstate was built with the left exit onto Interstate 375 the signage was well marked with advisories and warnings regarding the left exit and the reduced speed limit to 50 mph.

As a result of numerous sign replacement projects including the most recent one in conjunction with a concrete pavement rehabilitation project a while ago the left exit advisory signage – including the yellow “exit only” panel on the bottom of the sign – was replaced with nothing more than a diagrammatic sign without any mention of a left exit advisory. Any warning of a left exit onto Interstate 375 (or its counterpart, Interstate 175) from Interstate 275 today is nothing more than a little post mounted “Exit 50 mph” sign on the left side. I agree, once you are on that ramp onto Interstate 375 it’s too late.

There is a similarity between the accident on Interstate 375 at Interstate 275 and the charter bus accident on Interstate 75 in Atlanta: Both exits have minimally marked left exit advisories. Perhaps if the left exit advisories were better signed these tragedies may have been averted.

Yes, the Interstate 375 ramp should have been constructed as a right exit. Having to exit from the left lane is confusing, yet sometimes dangerous. However, the left exit design was planned for in the very first place as Interstate 375 was supposed to continue west to the beaches as an east-west beach expressway but that idea was nixed long ago. The only remnant of this idea is a ghost ramp which can be seen on the ramp from westbound Interstate 375 to southbound Interstate 275.

Yes, the signage for Interstate 375 east from Interstate 275 south (Exit 23A) does not provide for any left exit warning. Back in 1977 when this section of Interstate 275 opened it had signage for Interstate 375 east complete with an “Exit Only” panel for the two left exit lanes as well as side mounted signage warning motorists of the 50 mph speed advisory for the ramp. Thirty years and a few sign replacement projects later the signage was replaced by two diagrammatic overheads and the overhead at the point of exit no longer has an “Exit Only” panel attached to the bottom. The only warning signage that exists today is the small side mounted 50 mph advisory signage on the left side of the exit ramp.

It should be interesting to note that at one point the MUTCD – or the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the book that defines the standards for road signs in the United States – did call for the use of the “Exit Only” panel when you have lanes departing from the mainline highway as part of the exit. The MUTCD was revised a few years ago to eliminate the “Exit Only” panel requirement when the lanes departing from the mainline interstate highway go to another interstate highway such as the junction of Interstate 275 and Interstate 375. I believe the “Exit Only” panel requirement should have been left in place as eve though you are transitioning from one interstate highway to another, you have exited from one interstate highway to begin with.

I believe the Florida DOT should upgrade the signage for both Interstate 375 and Interstate 175 (Exit 23A and Exit 22) from Interstate 275 south stating the fact that these exits are left lane exits and placing better warning signage such as the tipping truck graphic warning sign found in Tampa at Exit 39 (FL 60) from Interstate 275 southbound.

As for the overpass from southbound Interstate 275 to eastbound Interstate 375, work is progressing at a steady pace to get the overpass sections replaced and the overpass open to traffic again around 1 May 2007. Having this overpass open would be a relief for commuters as well as those headed to Tropicana Field as a good alternate route.

An updated look for Interstate275Florida.com!

After so many months of updating the pictures (of course due to the ongoing construction and new traffic patterns) and updating the links and all the other things that go with a website, the updated look for Interstate275Florida.com is now online!

This is a much better improvement over the old version, which was unchanged for several months. I know, I got your emails asking me when I am going to update content due to the ongoing construction taking place and the resulting traffic shifts. So, rather than just do the improvements piecemeal I went ahead and gave Interstate275Florida.com an updated makeover. Besides, the website needed a good makeover anyway.

As an updated Interstate275Florida.com is now online, I would like to ask a little favor of our website visitors: Although I checked the links to make sure they work, if you see a link which is broken or nonfunctioning in any way please by all means report it to me via the Feedback page (select the Report a Broken Link on the first drop down menu) and I will take a look at it and correct it if needed.

In the meantime, please enjoy the updated for 2007 Interstate275Florida.com website! I would like to hear your feedback after you take a look – please feel free to reply to this post. Keep coming back to Interstate275Florida.com frequently and often – you’ll never know something new is there!

Welcome to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog!

Hello and welcome to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog!

Now that we have entered the “blogosphere” we will discussing all things Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area including Interstate 75, Interstate 4 as well as the two downtown St. Petersburg feeder interstates, Interstate 375 and Interstate 175. You can get to the blog either through my regular web page for Interstate 275 Florida at Interstate275Florida.com or directly via this URL which will take you right here to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog: BlogInterstate275Florida.com.

But first, I have one little favor to ask if you reply to any of the entries on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog: Please keep the replies clean as the Interstate 275 Florida website is a family friendly site for all ages.

Make sure to keep checking back on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog frequently and often. You never know something interesting may appear from time to time! Also be sure to visit the web site for all things Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area, Interstate275Florida.com!