Exit Numbering Changes on Interstate 275 in Tampa

By now you are getting used to the new southbound lanes on Interstate 275 in Tampa from downtown Tampa to Exit 39 (FL 60 to Tampa International Airport as well as Clearwater).  The good news is that all the exits are now from the right lane as opposed to the temporary left lane exits.
With the new southbound lanes of Interstate 275 open come a couple of exit numbering changes for Dale Mabry Highway (US 92) and Himes Avenue, according to Tampa Bay Interstates, the Florida DOT’s Tampa Bay Region interstate construction page.  Here’s what the exits used to be before the reconstruction project began:
Northbound Interstate 275:
Exit 41A – Dale Mabry Highway southbound
Exit 41B – Dale Mabry Highway northbound
Southbound Interstate 275:
Exit 41C – Himes Avenue
Exit 41B – Dale Mabry Highway northbound
Exit 41A – Dale Mabry Highway southbound
Now with the circular ramps from Interstate 275 to Dale Mabry Highway gone, this changes the makeup of the Dale Mabry/Himes interchange complex on Interstate 275.  That said, here’s the exits in the new format:
Northbound Interstate 275:
Exit 41A – Dale Mabry Highway
Southbound Interstate 275:
Exit 41B – Himes Avenue
Exit 41A – Dale Mabry Highway
So, in order to exit Interstate 275 at Dale Mabry Highway, you will use the ramp at Exit 41A to proceed in either direction on Dale Mabry Highway.  Himes Avenue – which used to be Exit 41C but is now Exit 41B – is a northbound entrance and southbound exit ramp.
Dale Mabry Highway is also known as US 92, the cross Florida highway from St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach that parallels and predates Interstate 4.  While Dale Mabry Highway is a north-south road, US 92 is an east-west highway explained thus:
Dale Mabry Highway northbound – US 92 eastbound
Dale Mabry Highway southbound – US 92 westbound
 
We’ll be also updating the Interstate275Florida.com Tampa pages with new pictures as soon as new signage is installed and lane configurations are in their permanent configurations.  Stay tuned!
 
 

More big changes coming to southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa!

Motorists, get ready for yet another big change on Interstate 275 southbound in Tampa!
If you have had the chance or if your travels take you on southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa south of downtown Tampa, you have seen the new southbound lanes take shape along with plenty of brand new signage.  Now a new construction milestone is on the horizon when southbound Interstate 275 traffic will get to use the new southbound lanes.
Another benefit of the new Interstate 275 southbound lanes is that all the exits – Howard/Armenia Avenues (Exit 42), Himes Avenue (Exit 41B), Dale Mabry Highway (Exit 41A), Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) and Westshore Blvd. (Exit 40A) – will be right lane exits instead of the temporary left lane exits we’ve been used to while the construction project is taking place.  No more having to go through temporary ramps to get to where you need to go.
Unfortunately, the switch over is going to mean some inconvenience and the switch over will be taking place during night time hours.  This will mean detours and traffic delays while the switch over takes place.
According to Tampa Bay Interstates, the switch over will take place on Friday evening, 27 March 2015 beginning at 11:30 PM and wrapped up by Saturday morning, 28 March 2015 at 5:30 AM.  This is subject to change due to weather conditions; if weather conditions make it unsafe to do the switch over it will be done the next night or a night when conditions are safe.
Now here’s the detour when the switch over is taking place:
Expect to be detoured off of Interstate 275 southbound (this includes westbound Interstate 4 transitioning to southbound Interstate 275) at Exit 45A, which is Downtown East/West which will put you on either Jefferson Street or Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa.  Go south on either street to Kennedy Blvd., also known as FL 60.
Follow Kennedy Blvd. west across the Hillsborough River.  Kennedy Blvd. provides access to the southbound Interstate 275 exits that will be closed during the switch over:  Armenia/Howard Avenues, Himes Avenue, Dale Mabry Highway (US 92), Lois Avenue and Westshore Blvd.
Now if you are headed to Tampa International Airport or St. Petersburg, continue to head west on Kennedy Blvd.  To reach St. Petersburg you will take a left at the intersection where Kennedy Blvd. continues west to southbound Interstate 275.  To reach Tampa International Airport, continue straight (Kennedy Blvd. becomes Memorial Highway) and follow the signs.  Be sure to be in your right lane as you approach the Tampa International Airport entrance and watch for traffic coming from northbound Interstate 275 as you make the lane changes.
ALTERNATIVE DETOUR ROUTE FOR ST. PETERSBURG IF COMING FROM WESTBOUND INTERSTATE 4:  Take the Selmon Crosstown connector to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway (FL Toll 618), and follow the Selmon Crosstown westbound to its end at Gandy Blvd. (US 92).  West on Gandy Blvd. across the Gandy Bridge to St. Petersburg; continue west on Gandy Blvd. to Interstate 275 south.  Be aware of construction on Gandy Blvd. at 4 St N and Martin Luther King St N as there are temporary lane shifts in the area.
Be advised that the Selmon Crosstown is a toll road and tolls are collected via SunPass or toll-by-plate (no cash is accepted).  But believe me, it’s worth the toll to get around the expected congestion when the detours on Interstate 275 are in effect.
When the new southbound Interstate 275 lanes open, be aware that the new right lane exits at Exits 41B, 41A and 40B are in close succession.  Plan accordingly and be in the right lane for your intended exit.
Hopefully all the construction on Interstate 275 south of downtown Tampa should be wrapped up in the latter part of 2016.  But when it’s all said and done, you will have four lanes of travel in either direction and there will be space in the center median for what I hope someday will be the answer to the Tampa Bay region’s transit needs:  Rail based mass transit in the form of commuter rail or light rail.  After all, Miami and Orlando already have rail based mass transit; the time has now come for Tampa to have rail based mass transit which will provide a much needed turbo-boost to the economy of the Tampa Bay region.  As I have mentioned previously, you can widen Interstate 275 to 20 lanes but you will still have traffic gridlock because of not so many transit choices.
 

Westshore Blvd exit (Exit 40A) closure alert

Since this is the first post of 2015, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  Hopefully you got to ring in the New Year happily and safely.
I noticed a variable message alert on the Interstate 275 variable message boards just lately and I noticed that the exit to Westshore Blvd. (Exit 40A) from southbound Interstate 275 is going to close on 8 January 2015 sometime between 12 Midnight and 5:30 AM and remain closed until May 2015, according to Tampa Bay Interstates, the Florida DOT’s website for all interstate and highway construction in the Tampa Bay region.  This is necessary so that the new southbound Interstate 275 lanes can be constructed in this area and the ramp to Westshore Blvd. from southbound Interstate 275 can be constructed in its permanent configuration.  You have undoubtedly seen the work on the overpass on southbound Interstate 275 at Westshore Blvd. as it progresses, not to mention the temporary lane shifts necessitating a 45 mph speed limit as you pass through the area.
As the Westshore Blvd. exit is a highly used exit not only for commuters who work in any of the office complexes in Tampa’s Westshore district but for anyone staying at any of the hotels in the vicinity of Westshore Blvd. and Interstate 275, not to mention Westshore Plaza including the AMC Theatres Westshore 14 to catch the latest and greatest movies there, if you use this exit on a frequent basis you need to read this as to how it will affect how you will get to destinations in Tampa’s Westshore district.  I know, it’s going to be an inconvenience for a little bit but you will see a much improved Interstate 275 in the end.

I have seen a lot of progress on the southbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa of lately.  I think the goal is to get these southbound lanes opened as soon as possible so that the contractor can get started on getting the northbound lanes constructed, especially in the area around the Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A/B, US 92) interchange.  (In fact, just recently I have seen backups into the northbound Interstate 275 mainline of motorists exiting northbound Interstate 275 at Dale Mabry Highway in order to get to Raymond James Stadium for events taking place there).

The detour for Westshore Blvd., according to Tampa Bay Interstates, is for motorists to take the right hand exit for both Dale Mabry Highway and Lois Avenue, which is reached from a single exit location just before the left hand exit for Himes Avenue (Exit 41C).  Follow the signage in order to reach Lois Avenue; actually you will exit onto Cypress Street rather than Lois Avenue.  Once on Cypress Street proceed west on Cypress Street past Lois Avenue for about a half a mile to Westshore Blvd.
When the Westshore Blvd. exit from southbound Interstate 275 closes temporarily, please keep in mind the following exits from southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa from downtown Tampa to FL 60/Tampa International Airport that are open (this is subject to change as construction on Interstate 275 progresses):
Exit 42, Armenia/Howard Avenues (temporary left exit – use left lane)
Exits 41A-B and Exit 40B, Dale Mabry Highway and Lois Avenue (via Cypress Street)
Exit 41C, Himes Avenue (temporary left exit – use left lane) 
Exit 39, FL 60 to Tampa International Airport, Clearwater and FL Toll 589/Veterans Expressway
If you miss Exits 41A-B (Dale Mabry/Lois via Cypress) and you do not want to have to cross the Howard Frankland Bridge to have to make a U-turn at Exit 32, 4 St N in St. Petersburg, use Exit 39 and you can go through Tampa International Airport (follow the signs for the terminal and airport exit). 

Overall, the entire maze of temporary lanes, 45 mph reduced speed limits and temporary lane shifts on Interstate 275 in Tampa between Kennedy Blvd. (Exit 39, FL 60) and downtown Tampa at the Hillsborough River should be history by sometime in 2016 when all is said and done.  We’ll have not only a wider Interstate 275 to travel on, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a commuter rail line in the center?  After all, Interstate 275 in Tampa is being reconstructed to accommodate a commuter rail line sometime in the future; after all, the Tampa Bay region needs commuter rail if it wants to be competitive with Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando which already have commuter rail systems.

What can we do about wrong way incursions?

First of all I would like to wish all of our Interstate275Florida.com visitors a very Merry Christmas and a very prosperous 2015!  I cannot believe it, 2014 has come and gone just like that.
Unfortunately, 2014 for Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region has been beset by not one or two but so many incidents of incursions by wrong way drivers – drivers going the wrong direction on Interstate 275, either southbound in the northbound lanes or northbound in the southbound lanes.  Either way, these incidents are approaching an alarming trend!
In fact, as I am writing this entry I heard of yet another wrong way incident on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, according to ABC Action News.  A driver fleeing a traffic stop somehow entered Interstate 275 at 54 Av N (Exit 26) going southbound in the northbound lanes.  The driver got off at 38 Av N (Exit 25) but somehow abandoned the vehicle somewhere and fled on foot; luckily St. Petersburg Police arrested the driver on numerous charges.  Luckily only minor injuries were reported according to the ABC Action News article.
How can we stop this alarming trend of motorists going the wrong way on Interstate 275?  For starters, most of Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region is separated by either double sided guardrail or by Jersey Barrier Wall which prevents motorists from going to the other side of Interstate 275 in the wrong direction on the Interstate 275 mainline proper.
Then you got your signage on the Interstate 275 ramps, especially the Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage placed by the Florida DOT in accordance with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the handbook published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as the Bible of all traffic control devices in the United States including proper placement of signage.  Wrong way signage begins with Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage placed at the end of the exit ramp facing motorists going in the wrong direction.  Halfway between the cross street and the main line a set of Wrong Way signage flanks either side of the ramp, again facing motorists going in the wrong direction.
At some rural interchanges on Interstate 75, particularly at Exit 293 (CR 41 to Dade City in Pasco County), there is installed a set of red lights and an alarm bell on the off ramps to warn motorists twofold:  One for motorists going in the correct direction that a motorist has entered the highway in the wrong direction and another facing the motorist actually going in the wrong direction.
Just recently the Florida DOT installed enhanced Wrong Way signage at Exit 51 from Interstate 275 (that’s Fowler Avenue, FL 582) on the northbound exit ramp onto Fowler Avenue.  Not only there are Wrong Way signs, there are red lights that surround the signs themselves which are activated upon a motorist going the wrong direction.
But what does all that Do Not Enter/Wrong Way signage – even the signage supplemented by red traffic signals and audible alarms – do when motorists ignore the signage and dangerously go the wrong way on Interstate 275?  At the rate these wrong way incidents are taking place, it is a matter of time before a wrong way incident becomes a major Interstate 275 pileup resulting in needless serious injury and/or property damage, not to mention needless lives lost.
Well, I think I may have the solution to the ever growing problem of wrong way movements on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region.  The answer is here and in two parts.  But please let me emphasize this is only a suggestion.
1.  Install resistance type gates similar to what is found on the reversible express lanes of the Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  If a motorist enters Interstate 275 in the wrong direction an alarm would sound accompanied by flashing red lights alerting motorists of a wrong way driver.  Within seconds the resistance type gates would lower onto the width of the exit ramp preventing the wrong way driver from entering the Interstate 275 mainline.  However, there is a trade-off as far as the motorist going the correct direction is concerned:  Motorists would have to stop when the gates lower.  Sure it would be an inconvenience, but there is a bigger dividend when lives are saved.  Variable message signs in the vicinity of where the motorist entered Interstate 275 in the wrong direction would warn motorists going in the correct direction of the incident taking place and to advise exiting Interstate 275 at another exit close by.
2.  Install tire spikes similar to the tire spikes found in parking garages but the tire spikes would be constructed in ground.  Normal operation would be for the spikes to be retracted in the ground but upon detection of a wrong way driver flashing red lights would go off alerting motorists of the situation at hand and the spikes would raise which would severely damage the tires of a wrong way motorist.  (Motorists going the correct direction would not be affected).  I would supplement this with regular railroad crossing style gates which would lower at the same time the spikes go up.  Again variable message signs in the vicinity of the incident would warn and advise motorists to use an alternate exit close by.
Sure the Florida DOT can do only so much to try to prevent incidents of wrong way entry onto Interstate 275.  But I feel much more can be done here than just signage and signals.
This is what I think from a layman’s point of view as to how incidents of wrong way driving on Interstate 275 can be reduced or even eliminated.  Yes there could be a lot of pitfalls from a liability standpoint but what can you do to prevent wrong way incursions onto Interstate 275?
If you got a better idea to help reduce or even eliminate wrong way incursions on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region I want to hear from you.  You can sound off by leaving a comment, but please keep the comments clean.
 

Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go! Thanksgiving 2014 travel tips

Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House we Go!
Thanksgiving 2014 is just around the corner and a lot of you out there have travel plans in order to get to Grandma’s, whether it may be by using Interstate 275 with your own vehicle, flying out of Tampa International Airport on Southwest Airlines (or your favorite airline) or taking Amtrak from Tampa’s Union Station.  Hopefully you have managed to make it through the severe cold weather that is gripping much of the nation; however, we are lucky in Florida except for the cold snaps that come through.
Before we go further, we here at Interstate275Florida.com and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog – a part of the Edward Ringwald Websites Network – want to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving as well as a joyous and happy Christmas holiday season.  After all, the Christmas holiday season beginning with the Thanksgiving holidays is my favorite time of year.
For those of you making your plans on how to get to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving Day here are some helpful tips before you set out, whether it may be on Interstate 275, via Southwest Airlines (or your favorite airline) or via Amtrak:
IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL
Check to be sure that your car is in tip top shape.  That means checking all the essential fluids such as your oil level among other things.  That will save you from a mechanical breakdown, especially when you are hundreds of miles from home.
Also check your windshield washer fluid, especially if you are headed to areas experiencing high concentration of bugs and you have to constantly run the windshield washer.  In fact, keep a spare bottle of windshield washer fluid in your car and replenish every time you stop for gas – believe me, you will be glad you did!
Moreover, check your turn signals and brake lights too.  You want to make sure that everything is in working order; in fact, doing so will help you avoid being issued a defective equipment citation in the event you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer.
Plan how you will get to Grandma’s.  You can use your favorite map program that you like out there on the Internet such as Google Maps.
If you own any of the vehicles that has OnStar (the best thing out there since the invention of the motor vehicle), check to make sure that it works.  Simply press the black OnStar phone button; if you hear the phrase “OnStar ready” you’re in business!  If you need to add more minutes to your OnStar hands free calling do so:  While connected to OnStar, from the main menu say “minutes” then “add”.  To verify minutes on OnStar, from the main menu say “minutes” then “verify”.  Or, you can log in to your OnStar account online and check your minutes.
Besides, it’s much better to use your OnStar hands free calling rather than using your cell phone while driving.  In fact, in several states (including California and now Florida with its no texting while driving law) hands free is not an option – it’s the law.
Additionally, be sure that you have a good SunPass balance and replenish your SunPass account as needed.  This is very important as many toll roads in the Tampa Bay region including the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and the Veterans Expressway only accept SunPass or toll-by-plate.  The same thing goes for toll roads in South Florida including Miami.
By the way, if you are headed to Georgia or North Carolina your Florida SunPass will work in these states.  Another good reason why using SunPass is your best value when it comes to paying tolls!
Get a good night’s rest – believe me, you will need plenty of it!  When you actually set out on the roads they will be crowded; allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely.
While you are out and about on the road, in the event of an accident give the Florida Highway Patrol a call at *FHP (*347) on your cell phone.  However, in the event of an accident involving serious injury always call 911!  By the way, *FHP can also be used in case your car breaks down on the highway; a Road Ranger will be dispatched to your location.
If you are traveling outside Florida, most states have a number that you can reach the highway patrol or state police which is prominently posted as you cross over the state line into a new state.  In Georgia, you can reach the Georgia State Patrol at *GSP (*477). 
 
If you happen to own a car that is equipped with OnStar and you have a breakdown, simply press the blue OnStar button and an OnStar representative will send out assistance to where you’re located.  In the event of an accident, press the red OnStar emergency button and a specially trained OnStar representative will send emergency help to where you’re located.
 
Moreover, while we’re on the same topic of being safe out and about on the road, if you see an impaired or aggressive or a wrong way driver please call *FHP (if life or property is in immediate danger, call 911).  After all, the Florida Highway Patrol wants to know and FHP will send a Trooper out to apprehend the driver, hopefully before there is a serious accident.
 
Stay within the speed limit – after all, there’s nothing to be gained nor you will get to Grandma’s quicker by going faster than the flow of traffic.
Be mindful of Florida’s Move Over Law:  If you see emergency vehicles on the side of the road, move over and give these workers room.
Most importantly, don’t drink and drive!  Remember:  Over the limit = under arrest!
 

If it’s a long road trip to Grandma’s, consider taking a break for every three or four hours of driving.  Feel free to stop at a rest area, a welcome center (particularly if you crossed into another state such as Georgia), a service plaza (like that on the Florida Turnpike), an interstate interchange oasis (such as what you will find on Interstate 75 at Exit 329, which is FL 44 to Wildwood) or even a small town if it’s close by.
Pay attention to the gigantic green overhead signs mounted over the highway, especially if you are on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region.  Pay special attention to the word “Left” in black letters on a yellow background:  This means that the exit you are approaching is a left exit and you must be in the left lane to exit the highway.
Please be mindful of the construction taking place on Interstate 275 in Tampa between the FL 60/Tampa Airport (Exit 39) and downtown Tampa (Exit 44) exits.  There have been lots of traffic pattern changes as work progress on the reconstruction of Interstate 275 between Exit 39 and Exit 44 in Tampa.
 
This cannot be over-emphasized enough:  Please observe the 45 mph speed limit on the section of Interstate 275 in Tampa that is under construction from FL 60/Kennedy Blvd. (Exit 39) to US 92/Dale Mabry Highway (Exit 41) – temporary lanes and narrow lane widths, not to mention sharp turns in the highway as you traverse the construction work zone, is why the Florida DOT has a 45 mph speed limit on this stretch of Interstate 275 under construction.  In other words, it is 45 mph for a reason.  Resist the urge to go faster than the posted speed limit through the Interstate 275 construction zones; speeding fines are doubled and the Florida Highway Patrol enforces these speed limits to the letter.
 
Additionally, pay attention to the variable message signs that are posted everywhere on Interstate 275 as well as Interstates 75 and 4 and the toll roads in the Tampa Bay region.  These variable message signs convey valuable information such as travel times to exits ahead plus advance warning of accidents that are blocking the highway ahead of you.
 
Once you exit Interstate 275 or any other limited access highway, reduce your speed for the off ramp as well as the street you have exited onto.

IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES AIRLINE TRAVEL
My advice to you is this:  Get to Tampa International Airport early, well before your flight.
Most airlines including Southwest Airlines allow you to check in early for your flight and receive your boarding pass, usually 24 hours before your scheduled flight.  If you have baggage to check getting there early will allow you to check your bags, clear security screening and be on your plane.  If you are on an international flight, be sure to abide by any check in deadlines that are posted by your airline.
If you are flying on Southwest Airlines and you purchased the Early Bird Check In option – well worth the extra fee in my opinion – the check in is handled for you.  All you have to do is to print your boarding pass either at home or at the airport.
Airport parking at Tampa International Airport will more than likely be at a premium throughout the Thanksgiving holidays, especially the day before Thanksgiving.  That being said, consider having a family member or a friend drive you to the airport or take a taxi cab or the SuperShuttle van.
IF YOUR THANKSGIVING TRIP INVOLVES TRAIN TRAVEL
My advice to you is this:  Get to Tampa Union Station early, well before train departure. 
This is important especially if you have baggage to check as there will more than likely be lines in the ticket office as the station agent has to check your baggage in.  If you have an eTicket, be sure to bring it with you or the station agent can print your eTicket for you when you get there.
While seating on board Amtrak’s Silver Star (Trains 91 and 92) in coach class is reserved, it is important that you get there early if you want a good seat.  If you have a coach seating preference, tell the service attendant as you board and more than likely you will get your preference; after all, the seat you are assigned by the service attendant will be your seat all the way to your destination.  This does not apply if you are seated in the sleeping car as your compartment is assigned to you way in advance.
Parking at Tampa Union Station will more than likely be at a premium especially during peak travel season such as the Thanksgiving holidays.  You might want to consider taking a taxi or have a friend drive you to Tampa Union Station.
MORE HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TRIP TO GRANDMA’S MORE SMOOTHLY
If you are flying or taking Amtrak, be sure to have government issued photo identification at all times.  You may be asked for it on Amtrak, and you will be asked for it when you check in for your flight and when you clear airport security.  A driver license is good, but you can use a passport or passport card as ID when asked.
Now if you are driving, obviously you will need a driver’s license as it is the law when you are driving a motor vehicle.  You will also need it if you are renting a car at your destination as a result of flying or taking the train.
Speaking of a Florida driver’s license, did you know that you can update your emergency contact information?  This enables law enforcement officers to notify your loved ones in the event you are in a serious accident.  What are you waiting for?  Enter your emergency contact information today!
HELPFUL WEBSITES

Interstate275Florida.com:  See what your exit looks like at your destination in the Tampa Bay region before you hit the road.
 
Tampa Bay Interstates:  Information from the Florida DOT on interstate construction in the Tampa Bay region.
 
Florida 511:  Information on interstate conditions not only from the Tampa Bay region but the rest of the State of Florida as well.  You can also dial 511 from your cell phone or on OnStar to receive current highway conditions as well (just be sure to use hands free when driving).
 
A FINAL NOTE

As Thanksgiving is the gateway to the Christmas holiday season, have a happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas holiday season!  Let’s be careful out there on Interstate 275 and drive safely!


Onward with Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season!
 

Greenlight Pinellas: What St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay Region Needs!

On 4 November 2014 we go to the polls to elect who will be our next Governor of the State of Florida among other things.  However, if you live in Pinellas County, keep reading this blog as I want to speak with you about a referendum that will mean the difference as far as mass transit is concerned in Pinellas County as well as the Tampa Bay region as a whole.
That referendum is called Greenlight Pinellas.
Greenlight Pinellas is a referendum, if approved by the voters of Pinellas County on 4 November 2014, will pave the way for better and more enhanced bus service plus the implementation of light rail mass transit.  It would increase the county discretionary sales tax while at the same time it would eliminate the tax for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from your property tax bill if you own a home in Pinellas County.
Now you’re saying to yourself, “another tax?”  That answer is no, Greenlight Pinellas is not another tax.  Instead, Greenlight Pinellas shifts the tax from the homeowner to anyone who pays sales tax on most items we buy at the store.
OK.  By now you are saying to yourself that you are skeptical of another tax.  If you keep reading you will understand why Greenlight Pinellas is needed and the benefits for you Pinellas County residents, especially if you live on one side of Pinellas County and commute to work on the other side of Pinellas.
Let’s say you live, say, in Palm Harbor.  You commute to your job daily in downtown St. Petersburg.  The current situation as it is now as far as transit in Pinellas County is concerned there is infrequent bus service, not to mention the fact that you have to change buses somewhere in order to reach your destination.
As transit in Pinellas County as well as the Tampa Bay region is iffy at best, most of us have to depend on our automobiles in order to commute to work daily.  However, there are people out there that cannot or do not have the financial resources to own an automobile which effectively shuts a lot of people out of plenty of employment opportunities.
Besides, owning an automobile is great as is allows you plenty of flexibility.  However, owning an automobile carries with it a lot of financial obligations:
1.  Gasoline for your automobile.  You and I know that we have to fill up at least once a week, if not more depending on how you use your automobile.  Then you have to take into consideration the rising and falling level of gasoline prices, similar to what a magician does when he or she performs the levitation illusion.  When was the last time Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region saw gas prices exceed $4.00 a gallon?
2.  Repairs and maintenance for your automobile.  Yes you got to keep the oil changed in your automobile and perform all the other maintenance tasks in order to keep your automobile in peak operating condition.  That can set you back a good sum of money depending on which maintenance procedure you need to perform, whether you take your automobile to the dealer or to the service facility of your choice.
3.  Insurance.  You and I know that insurance for your automobile is not an option – it is the law in Florida that you must carry insurance on your automobile.  The premium you pay for automobile insurance depends on a lot of factors, and one of them is how long is your commute to work one way daily.
For instance, let’s say you live in the New Tampa area of Tampa off of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. and you commute to work in downtown St. Petersburg daily using Interstate 275.  That’s a long commute to work!  As such, expect to pay a higher insurance premium compared to if your place of employment was just around the corner.
After all, we could think about living close to our places of employment but that would more than likely be prohibitively expensive depending on where you work.
4.  For those of you that work in downtown St. Petersburg, there is yet an additional expense for owning an automobile:  Parking in a downtown St. Petersburg parking garage or lot which sets you back quite a sum a month.  No matter why downtown St. Petersburg employers have trouble trying to hire and retain great talent:  Working in downtown St. Petersburg can get very expensive, especially on the small to medium salaries offered.
Speaking of commuting to work by using your personal automobile, more than likely you use at one point or another Interstate 275 to get to where you are going.  Unfortunately, you hit the heavy traffic that crawls to a snail’s pace during the morning or evening commute.
One of the many reasons companies lose valuable team players:  The commute to and from work is too long, which seriously disrupts the work-life balance.
Of course we can widen Interstate 275 to, let’s say twenty lanes.  Would that solve the problem?  Probably not.
Presently Interstate 275 is being widened and reconstructed in Tampa from Exit 39 (FL 60) to just west of Exit 44 (Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets).  In fact, an important feature of the Interstate 275 reconstruction is a wide median so that a future commuter rail line could be built.
Which leads us to the Howard Frankland Bridge, connecting Pinellas with Hillsborough County.
Presently the original 1960 span – the span that initially carried two way traffic with two lanes in each direction, now the northbound span which was converted in 1991 when a four lane southbound span was opened – is almost at its end of service life.  From what I understand the plan is to replace the Howard Frankland northbound span with a new northbound span just to the south of where the current northbound span is now, and use the footprint of the current northbound span for a possible light and/or commuter rail line.
This is where a light rail line from Pinellas County could be routed to Tampa International Airport as well as downtown Tampa.  After all, light rail in Pinellas County is in the Greenlight Pinellas plan and adding that important connection to Tampa via Interstate 275 would be an asset.
Another aspect of why Interstate 275 could not be widened any further is the price of land.  After all, if land has to be acquired by the Florida DOT for an Interstate 275 project that adds to the cost of a project quite significantly, given today’s slowly recovering real estate market.  Besides, land especially in Pinellas County is at a premium.
Of course rail based mass transit is the key.  You can build on rail based mass transit by adding better bus service as an enhancement to rail service.
Let’s talk rail based mass transit for a moment.
Realize that Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and now Orlando have rail based commuter rail systems, Tri-Rail and SunRail respectively.  Tri-Rail was originally implemented as a temporary solution while Interstate 95 is being totally reconstructed.  Instead, Tri-Rail was kept and the people of Miami/Ft. Lauderdale now have better choices when it comes to mobility.
Unfortunately, Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region has practically no rail based mass transit, the only exceptions being either the TECO Street Car connecting Tampa’s Ybor City entertainment district with downtown Tampa or the weekend excursions between Parrish and Willow provided by the Florida Railroad Museum in Manatee County.
If you want to experience rail travel without the expense of staying overnight somewhere, the Florida Railroad Museum has something for you every weekend with train rides at 11 AM and 2 PM Saturdays and Sundays.  Special themed events are also scheduled throughout the year.
And we can’t forget Amtrak service into Tampa’s Union Station twice daily, the southbound Silver Star (Train 91) to Miami and the northbound Silver Star (Train 92) to Orlando, Jacksonville, Washington D.C. and New York City.
Rail based mass transit – whether it may be light rail or commuter rail – is the choice of travel that we residents of Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region need.  Not only it would help take a good deal of traffic off the roads, it would also be friendly for the environment.  Instead of hopping in your car and traveling on Interstate 275 to work, simply head on over to the rail station and catch the train to work.  While on board, catch up on your morning news on your smartphone and sit back and enjoy the commute while someone else is doing the driving.
Back in 2012 over Labor Day weekend I took a trip to San Diego.  One day I took a ride on the light rail line connecting downtown San Diego with San Ysidro, which is right on the Mexican border and Tijuana is a stone’s throw away as you get off the light rail.  When I was headed back to downtown San Diego to get my car I thought to myself, if San Diego can do this with their light rail solution between downtown San Diego and San Ysidro why can’t St. Petersburg and Pinellas County have a system similar to San Diego’s?
All of this will be possible if we pass Greenlight Pinellas on Tuesday, 4 November 2014.   Greenlight Pinellas will mean the difference as far as mass transit in Pinellas County is concerned.  It will also mean the difference as far as mass transit in the remainder of the Tampa Bay region is concerned:  If Greenlight Pinellas passes, it is more than likely that Hillsborough County will move forward with a similar plan.
So, what are you waiting for?
On Tuesday, 4 November 2014, do whatever it takes to simply head on over to your assigned polling place.  When you arrive present your photo/signature ID to the poll worker and you will be handed a ballot.  Take that ballot to a privacy booth or the ballot marking machine whichever you prefer.  After you complete that ballot, scan your ballot and that’s all there is to it!
After all, Greenlight Pinellas is not only Pinellas County’s future – it is the future of the Tampa Bay region if we want to be competitive.
 

Right Turns on Red

Happy Labor Day 2014!  Hopefully you are enjoying your Labor Day holiday with something that you like to do.
When you exit Interstate 275 at any one of the exits, most of them are controlled by traffic signals.  The usual traffic signal rules apply, including right turns on red.  However, at some ramps you will see more than one right turn lane like the exit ramp from northbound Interstate 275 at Fowler Avenue (Exit 51, FL 582).  You are probably asking yourself, is it legal to make a right turn on red from any one of the multiple right turn lanes?
I came across this article on Bay News 9 by their Real Time Traffic Expert, Chuck Henson.  The answer, according to Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the Florida Highway Patrol as mentioned in the article, is this:  Yes, you are allowed to make a right turn on red no matter which right turn lane you are in, provided there are no traffic control devices such as signage that prohibit right turns on red.
OK.  We know that it’s legal to make a right turn on red provided that the way is clear and that there is not a sign posted that prohibits right turns on red.  Obviously, if you see a sign that says no turn on red, that’s letting you know that you cannot make a right turn on red at that location.
What about those multiple right turn lanes as Chuck Henson mentioned in the Bay News 9 article?  Again, it is legal to make a right turn on red from any of the multiple right turn lanes unless a sign tells you otherwise.  However, I have seen signage on multiple right turn lanes (especially in the Miami area) where you are only allowed to make a right turn on red only from the right turn lane closest to the curb; the other right turn lanes you are not permitted to make a right turn on red.
Simply put, you may make a right turn on red from any multiple right turn lane.  But be careful for any signage posted prohibiting any turn on red – after all, the worst thing you need is a ticket for running a red light when you turned on red only to find out that there was a sign prohibiting turns on red.

And one more thing:  No so-called “California stops” when making a right turn on red.  You must first come to a complete stop for the red light, then make the turn when the way is clear.  This is very important, especially when you come upon a photo enforcement camera controlled intersection.
 

The Dale Mabry Colundrum

As you more than likely know already, the Florida DOT has closed the exit ramp to Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A-B) from southbound Interstate 275.  This is needed so that work can progress on the new southbound lanes of Interstate 275 which is taking shape.
Unfortunately, this closure has created mass confusion as motorists wanting to access Dale Mabry Highway – also known as US 92 – from southbound Interstate 275 must exit at Himes Avenue (Exit 41C).  Adding to the confusion is the fact that motorists must be in the left hand lane to exit; in other words, this is a left exit like its counterparts at Interstate 375 (Exit 23A) and Interstate 175 (Exit 22) in downtown St. Petersburg.  Miss the Himes Avenue exit and you will have to exit at Westshore Blvd.
As in most construction zones, the left exit to Himes Avenue is marked with temporary signage mounted on wooden posts similar to how California mounts their post mounted interstate signage.  So, how do you get to Dale Mabry Highway from southbound Interstate 275, now that you have to exit at Himes Avenue and the exit ramps to Dale Mabry are closed?
It depends on which way you are going on Dale Mabry:
If you are going south on Dale Mabry, take a left onto Himes Avenue and go south to Cypress Street.  West on Cypress Street to Dale Mabry Highway.
If you are going north on Dale Mabry, take a right onto Himes Avenue and go north to Spruce Street.  West on Spruce Street to Dale Mabry Highway.
But what if you are going to Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  It’s simple as taking a right onto Himes Avenue but you want to go straight ahead on Himes Avenue past Columbus Drive and the stadium will be on your left.  Just be sure to follow posted variable message signage for game day parking.
Now I want your opinion on how the Dale Mabry ramp closure is affecting you.  Go ahead, sound off by leaving a comment in the reply box below.  Just make sure to keep the comments clean, that’s all I ask.
 

Why the backups on Interstate 275 in Tampa?

I know, it’s been a long while since I posted here at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog but I have been so busy of lately.  However, I have seen plenty of backups out there on Interstate 275, so let’s get started.

On one weekend the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa were narrowed to one lane resulting in enormous traffic backups, sometimes backed up as far as the hump of the Howard Frankland Bridge, as a result of the reconstruction project taking place.  Why the backups?


Usually, lane closures are scheduled during the nighttime hours when traffic is at its lightest.  But why the closures during the day, especially when you have people coming out of a Rays game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg among other things?  A lane closure or two can translate into potential gridlock, especially during the morning and/or evening commute.

Then you got your usual backups on northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa just as you come off the Howard Frankland Bridge during the evening commute.  This is something we’re used to on a daily basis.

My take on the backups on Interstate 275 is this:


I think the Florida DOT could have done something better before the first shovel of dirt was turned on the Interstate 275 mega-reconstruction project from FL 60 (Exit 39) to Ashley Drive/Tampa Street/Scott Street (Exit 44) as far as commuters and other users of Interstate 275 are concerned.  That something better can be found 200 miles to the southeast:  Fort Lauderdale when Interstate 95 was reconstructed.

And the solution while Interstate 95 was being reconstructed was commuter rail, and out of that Tri-Rail was born.  Tri-Rail was supposed to be a temporary commute alternative; however, once all was said and done on Interstate 95 the ridership on Tri-Rail was so popular with Fort Lauderdale/Miami area commuters that Tri-Rail became a permanent fixture of the South Florida transit landscape, giving its residents a sensible choice.

Why couldn’t the Florida DOT implement at least a temporary commuter rail alternative while Interstate 275 in Tampa is being reconstructed?  The existing CSX railroad tracks that run from Tampa to St. Petersburg through Clearwater I believe could have been put to good passenger use; after all, the last time passenger trains ran on that line was in 1984 when Amtrak discontinued service into St. Petersburg.

However, rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay region is indeed garnering more and more support.  Once the Interstate 275 mega-reconstruction project in Tampa is done, the median will be wide enough to accommodate a possible commuter rail line that can run in the middle of Interstate 275.

After all, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has Tri-Rail.  Orlando now has SunRail.  Why can’t Tampa/St. Petersburg?  Our region needs rail based mass transit if we want to be competitive with other Florida metropolitan areas.

The Selmon Crosstown to Interstate 4 Connector

Happy New Year!  Hopefully everyone got the New Year off to a great start!
On Monday, 6 January 2014 the Selmon Crosstown Expressway to Interstate 4 connector opened for traffic.  This highway is a much needed relief not only for the trucks that need direct access to the Port of Tampa but for the residents of the area surrounding 21st Street and 22nd Street in Tampa’s Ybor City District that have had to put up with the trucks moving between Interstate 4 and the Port of Tampa.  Despite the detours such as onto FL 60 from the Crosstown at various times during construction the end result is an accessible product that fits into the Tampa Bay region’s highway puzzle.
Additionally, the Selmon Crosstown/Interstate 4 connector also provides for a hurricane evacuation route for those coming from St. Petersburg and southern Pinellas County.  Now that it’s 2014, in August it will be ten years since Hurricane Charley attempted to set its sights on the Tampa Bay region; remember the traffic backups if you were one of the folks that had to evacuate?
In fact, I took a ride on the newly opened Selmon to Interstate 4 connector the day it opened.  I can tell you one thing:  The connector allows you to transition from Interstate 4 to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and vice versa seamlessly.  It’s well worth the toll!
In order to use the Selmon/Interstate 4 connector you will need a SunPass, as no cash tolls are collected as is the standard practice now on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  If you don’t have a SunPass, that’s no problem; license plate readers mounted on the electronic toll gantry will read your license plate and send you a bill for the toll.
However, having the SunPass is the best:  Not only you don’t have to pay the $1.25 toll for toll-by-plate; you can also avoid the $2.50 administrative charge.  The toll for the Selmon/Interstate 4 connector for those with a SunPass is only $1.00!
OK.  While the new Selmon/Interstate 4 connector is open, you can only go a certain way from the Crosstown to Interstate 4 and vice versa.  This blog entry will help you in which way you can go:
Eastbound Selmon Crosstown can use the connector to transition to eastbound Interstate 4.
Eastbound Interstate 4 can use the connector to transition to eastbound Selmon Crosstown using the local lanes only.  There is no access to the express lanes on the Selmon Crosstown.
Westbound Selmon Crosstown can use the connector to transition to westbound Interstate 4 to Interstate 275, including Tampa International Airport.  There is no access to the connector from the Selmon Crosstown’s express lanes.
Westbound Interstate 4 can use the connector to transition to westbound Selmon Crosstown to downtown Tampa as well as to St. Petersburg via Gandy Blvd. (US 92).
This cannot be over-emphasized enough:  There is no access to the Selmon/Interstate 4 connector from the Selmon Crosstown’s express lanes.  Access to the Selmon/Interstate 4 connector from the Selmon Crosstown is only from the Selmon Crosstown’s local lanes.
If you haven’t been out to check out the new Selmon/Interstate 4 connector, you owe it to yourself to check it out!