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.

Southbound Interstate 75 over US 301 (Exit 224) has reopened!

For those of you who make southbound Interstate 75 crossing US 301 and the Manatee River at Exit 224 a part of your routine, I just learned of some great news when I was checking out Bay News 9: The two southbound lanes of Interstate 75 have just reopened!

The third southbound lane of Interstate 75 is expected to open, hopefully over the weekend. As for the northbound lanes which have been doing double duty since the tanker accident, the Florida DOT will be converting the northbound lanes back to the original three lanes northbound. Hopefully the three northbound lanes of Interstate 75 should be opened by Monday, 23 June 2008.

Sometime when I get down that way I’ll take a ride on southbound Interstate 75 at Exit 224 to check out the repairs that were done. From what I understand the work was going to take six weeks to get done but the contractor managed to get it done in half the time; I am pretty sure the contractor is going to enjoy that expedited work bonus that the Florida DOT offered to the contractor if the work was done sooner allowing for the southbound Interstate 75 overpass to be open sooner.

UPDATE AS OF 23 JUNE 2008:

Here is a photo I took of the recently reconstructed bridge on Interstate 75 south at Exit 224. Notice the new concrete pavement compared to the rest of the bridge; this is as I am actually crossing US 301:

The ramp from US 301 to southbound Interstate 75 is still closed so that construction can get wrapped up; hopefully this ramp should be open soon. Until then, to access southbound Interstate 75 from US 301 simply head north on Interstate 75 to Exit 229, which is the exit for Parrish and located just north of Interstate 275’s southern terminus at Exit 228. Once at Exit 229 turn left, go under the overpass, and make another left; that will place you on Interstate 75 southbound and get you where you want to go. Simple as that.

Still, this area is a construction zone (at least until all the construction has wrapped up) and please be sure to adhere to any posted reduced speed limits as you pass through the area. You do not want to get a visit from the Florida Highway Patrol and end up receiving a double fine Florida Uniform Traffic Citation; instead save that money for something else. Kudos to the Florida DOT for getting this overpass repaired in a quick and efficient manner!

Update to the Interstate 75 at Exit 224 Detour

This past Saturday (7 June 2008) I happened to take a ride by the site of the tanker accident on Interstate 75 at US 301 (Exit 224). The photo below which I took shows the extent of the damage to Interstate 75’s southbound bridge as it crosses over US 301 and the progress in demolishing the damaged sections of overpass and the three column pier in the median of US 301:

The Florida DOT is working feverishly to get this overpass fixed and back into service as soon as possible. In a previous blog entry the Florida DOT will be constructing crossovers that will enable southbound Interstate 75 traffic to use the northbound lanes until the repairs are done. According to news reports I found out this morning (9 June 2008) that the crossovers have been opened, which will save through traffic from having to make the long detour through Bradenton.

Until the Interstate 75 southbound overpass is repaired expect lots of delays as you pass through the construction zone as well as plenty of barricades, construction workers and increased Florida Highway Patrol presence. In the meantime, please let me offer some safety tips for passing through this work zone, as well as any other construction work zone elsewhere including Interstate 275:

1. Observe the posted reduced speed limits! The Florida Highway Patrol is enforcing the reduced speed limits and any speeding through the work zone can result in a traffic citation carrying a double fine, which can be much more than your auto loan payment. After all, this is a work zone on Interstate 75 and not Open Wheel Modified at DeSoto Super Speedway!

2. Give driving your 100 percent attention through the work zone. That much needed cell phone call can wait until you arrive at your destination.

3. Plan ahead and leave earlier than usual to reach your intended destination in plenty of time.

4. Don’t tailgate other motorists while going through the work zone. After all, the lanes are narrower than what you are used to and you need to leave extra room in front of you in case of the unexpected.

Another note I would like to pass on is for those who are entering Interstate 75 south from US 301 at Exit 224. That ramp is closed due to the overpass work. Instead, use Interstate 75 north to Exit 229, which is the Parrish exit located just north of Interstate 275’s southern terminus at Exit 228; once there you can turn around at the interchange and proceed south on Interstate 75.

I would like to give a hats off to the Florida DOT for getting these crossovers on Interstate 75 at Exit 224 constructed as quickly as practical, especially for the Monday morning commute. I know, we all had to endure the long detour through Bradenton for the past few days but the wait was worth it.

For those of you that have passed through this work zone on Interstate 75 I would like to hear from you!

Interstate 75 at US 301 (Exit 224) Alert

If you are one of the many motorists that make Interstate 75 crossing US 301 (Exit 224) and the Manatee River a part of your day, then this blog entry is just for you! By now you have heard on the major Tampa Bay area media outlets (including Bay News 9) that a serious accident has taken place on Interstate 75 southbound as it crosses US 301 on the afternoon of Wednesday, 4 June 2008.

This accident is similar to what happened on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg back in March 2007 when a tanker flipped over on the flyover from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 eastbound (Exit 23). According to news reports, a truck swerved to avoid a motorist which resulted in a chain of events that sent the truck over the left hand rail of Interstate 75 as it crosses US 301; the truck from what I understand fell onto US 301 and caught fire which resulted in serious damage to Interstate 75’s southbound bridge crossing US 301. The truck driver from what I understand was taken to Tampa General Hospital.

Constructed in 1979 and opened to traffic in 1981, this section of Interstate 75 is one of the many sections opened when Interstate 75 was extended from Tampa to Miami by way of the southern west coast of Florida and Alligator Alley to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. In fact, this particular section from US 301 (Exit 224) in Ellenton to River Road (Exit 191) south of Venice was one of the first sections to open in 1981.

From what I understand the decision was made by the Florida DOT to replace the damaged beams and piers on the southbound bridge carrying Interstate 75 over US 301. This is going to mean inconveniences for many of you until this overpass is rebuilt. I know, this is going to mean barricades, long grueling waits in traffic and heavy Florida Highway Patrol presence.

The Florida DOT is planning on temporarily converting the northbound Interstate 75 overpass to carry two way traffic while the southbound Interstate 75 overpass is being reconstructed where it goes over US 301. From what I understand this temporary setup should be in place by Monday, 9 June 2008.

Now for a recommended detour around all of this mess.

The following affects Interstate 75 southbound if you are headed to Bradenton, Sarasota or points south. I want to emphasize that Interstate 75 northbound is not affected, but traffic will be heavy.

If you are headed south on Interstate 275 from St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge:

After crossing the Sunshine Skyway bridge on southbound Interstate 275, take the US 19 south exit which will be Exit 5. Follow US 19 south to US 41 south; continue on US 41 south across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (which crosses the Manatee River) into Bradenton.

At the second traffic signal will be eastbound FL 64 which is marked with plenty of overhead signage. Take a left at FL 64 and follow it for about 8 or 9 miles; this will bring you back to Interstate 75 south.

If you are headed south on Interstate 75 from Tampa:

You will be directed off of Interstate 75 at Exit 224, which is US 301. Simply exit Interstate 75 at Exit 224 and follow US 301 south through the town of Ellenton to the junction of US 41. US 301 and US 41 multiplex here, so you want to follow US 41 south across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (which crosses the Manatee River) into Bradenton.

At the second traffic signal will be eastbound FL 64 which is marked with plenty of overhead signage. Take a left at FL 64 and follow it for about 8 or 9 miles; this will bring you back to Interstate 75 south.

This detour will be in place at least until the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 crossing US 301 at Exit 224 are converted to handle temporary two-way traffic. Even after the temporary conversion is in place, you may want to keep this detour in mind as traffic will be heavy.

On a side note, for those headed to the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area from Tampa or St. Petersburg using Interstate 75, you may want to consider crossing the state from Tampa via FL 60 to the Florida Turnpike, then head southbound on the turnpike. Or, you may want to consider flying to Ft. Lauderdale; Southwest Airlines has several daily flights from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale and vice versa. Besides, with gas at the $4.00 a gallon mark I would consider flying to Ft. Lauderdale from Tampa any day.

The repairs to Interstate 75 southbound at US 301 (Exit 224) are expected to take several weeks to complete. If you are one of the many motorists who make Interstate 75 in the Bradenton/Sarasota area a part of your routine I want to hear from you!