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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.
 

As the sun sets on 2012 and the sun rises on 2013

As the sun starts to set on 2012, perhaps we can start on an Interstate 275 related topic – transit related, that is.

You probably know this already, but we are one of the few metropolitan areas in the United States that has no meaningful mass transit system.  In other words, we have just buses with schedules that are most of the time inconvenient.  Translation:  Owning a car is mandatory, unless you are lucky enough to live close to work (such as downtown St. Petersburg or downtown Tampa, for example).

For the Tampa Bay region (Tampa/St. Petersburg) to succeed and be competitive with other metropolitan areas in the country, our region’s transit system needs a complete overhaul to include rail based mass transit.  Sure we can widen Interstate 275 in Tampa to eight lanes but it comes with a major price tag:  Land acquisition on either side of Interstate 275 in order to make the expansion among other things.  In other words, simply widening Interstate 275 is not enough to fix our region’s transit woes.


I came across this article I found in The Tampa Tribune about bus service between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport.  According to that article, it is possible to ride a HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) bus from downtown Tampa to Tampa International Airport to help save on uber expensive taxi cab fare but there is one catch:  Transit time between the airport and downtown is 42 minutes, give or take, and the route follows not Interstate 275 but Kennedy Blvd. (FL 60).

You know what taking Kennedy Blvd. to downtown from the airport and vice versa is, especially if traffic on Interstate 275 is backed up due to an accident and you have to use Kennedy Blvd. as an alternate route:  Several traffic signals and yet another major backup during the weekday on eastbound Kennedy Blvd. when you get past Lois Avenue, as Kennedy Blvd. narrows from three to two eastbound lanes just before Dale Mabry Highway (US 92).  The end result is stop and go traffic, which motorists and buses are subjected to daily.


The solution, according to The Tampa Tribune article, is this:  Transit service between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport can be made quicker but not using a rail-based solution.  Instead, the plan calls for bus rapid transit between the two locations utilizing not Kennedy Blvd. but Interstate 275.  That might sound OK, but I think bus rapid transit is not enough (in fact, not even the answer).  Why?

Even if such a route utilizes Interstate 275 between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport, buses would be subjected to the same delay as motorists, especially if there is an accident causing a partial or complete closure of Interstate 275 at some point requiring traffic to detour.  In downtown Tampa between the Marion Street Transit Center and Interstate 275 at Ashley/Tampa Streets (Exit 44), buses would have specialized equipment on board that would change traffic signals in favor of the bus.  Again, once a bus is on city streets it is basically subject to the same traffic delays as motorists are.

With the widening of Interstate 275 between the exit for Tampa International Airport (FL 60, Exit 39) and downtown Tampa just before the Hillsborough River now taking place, there is ample space in the median to accommodate rail based mass transit – a commuter rail line, a light rail line or even Amtrak service to St. Petersburg (which has not seen an Amtrak train since 1984; all Amtrak service is out of Tampa Union Station as we know today)!  Using that space in the newly expanded Interstate 275 median thanks to the widening that is taking place, perhaps a light rail line could be constructed between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport, perhaps as the first line of a network of light and/or commuter rail lines linking Tampa with St. Petersburg, Clearwater, New Tampa and other locations in the Tampa Bay region with buses providing the feeder service into the rail system.

Perhaps the folks at HART as well as TBARTA (the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority) ought to revisit transit between downtown Tampa and Tampa International Airport from a rail based perspective rather than a bus based perspective.  From what I have read, studies have shown that rail based transit leaves less of a carbon footprint in that electricity is used (especially for light rail systems – if you want an example, look no further than the TECO Streetcar Line that connects downtown Tampa with Ybor City, but the electric lines can be fixed using a third rail concept to make the surrounding area more appealing), rather than using diesel fuel as buses use today.  Commuter rail and Amtrak, from what I understand, uses diesel fueled locomotives but their consumption is greatly reduced when you compare it to a bus that uses regular streets and highways.

(After all, rail based transit runs on dedicated right of way while bus based transit is a part of regular highway traffic.  Even if bus rapid transit is implemented with a dedicated bus lane, still buses would have to stop for traffic signals even though there is equipment installed that would give the bus priority.  However, dedicated bus lanes can’t be everywhere depending on where the lanes are installed.)


In fact, a recent Bay News 9 I-Poll asks this question:  Do you think the Tampa Bay region is ready to support a light rail system?  As of 30 December 2012, 51% is saying yes while only 44% are not.  I think the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County are getting the message when they defeated a measure on the ballot that would allow a light rail system to be constructed using tax monies to finance its construction.  To me, I think the reality of congested traffic and longer commutes is setting in, and it is pronounced as every year goes by in the Tampa Bay region without a reliable and workable mass transit system based on more choices than what we have today.

And another Tampa Bay region mass transit issue should be fixed if and when the day light and/or commuter rail comes:  The merger of HART and PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) into one system, run by TBARTA which would be a comprehensive mix of light rail, commuter rail and buses.

OK.  Let’s change gears and head towards the sun rising on 2013 and the new year.

Every New Year’s Eve I put out a reminder on celebrating the holidays safely, whether it may be New Year’s Eve, 4th of July or even the unofficial holiday of Super Bowl Sunday.  You can find these tips to celebrate the holidays such as New Year’s Eve safely right here at Interstate275Florida.com (this link will open a PDF document in a new window).

Just remember, if you are celebrating New Year’s Eve and the beginning of 2013 and alcoholic beverages are part of the celebrations, may I give you some words of advice, especially if you had too much?

1.  Designate a driver to take you home.

2.  Call a taxi cab and have a taxi cab driver take you home.

3.  Call AAA’s Tow To Go at 1 (855) 286-9246, according to this recent St. Petersburg Times Dr. Delay article.

4.  Stay the night at a friend’s house.

5.  Stay the night at a hotel, such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront, the Hampton Inn Downtown St. Petersburg or any other hotel in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region.  Rates may be high for New Year’s Eve, but it’s better to spend $150-$175 for one night’s hotel room than spending at least $10,000 defending yourself against a DUI charge, if not more.  (Not to mention spending the first few hours of 2013 in the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails in their respective booking and holding areas, as you will not be able to even make bail until you are sober enough).

6.  The Tampa Bay region’s law enforcement agencies – such as the Florida Highway Patrol, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the St. Petersburg Police Department and Tampa Police Department, just to name a few – will be out in full force New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Morning with active patrols looking for impaired drivers as well as the use of DUI checkpoints.  If you are pulled over and caught, you will be arrested for DUI.  Once the officer or FHP trooper puts those nickel plated law enforcement regulation handcuffs on you behind your back it is the beginning of what lies ahead as far as a DUI arrest is concerned.


7.  DUI can have serious ramifications as far as your future is concerned – your job, your career, even taking a trip to Canada.  (Convicted of a DUI?  You will have an extremely hard time entering Canada for a vacation trip!)  Besides, your auto insurance rates will soar right through the roof, so much that you will be a high risk driver and insurance companies will either charge you extremely high rates or drop you altogether.

And one more thing:  Forget about renting a car if you were recently convicted of a DUI – the major car rental agencies, such as Alamo and Dollar, do check driving records with the swipe of your driver’s license; all it takes is for the car rental agent to find out that you had a recent DUI conviction and the agent denies your rental.  Besides, it’s way more embarassing than your credit card being declined.

And you will have a record for a DUI, even if it’s your first time.  Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt on any DUI charge, if you are found guilty.

Sobering?  New Year’s Eve, the stroke of midnight and the sun rising on 2013 doesn’t have to end in a DUI arrest, or worse.

Let’s start 2013 with New Year’s Day on a positive note!  Happy New Year from Interstate275Florida.com!

One widening project done, another major project getting underway

If you have been on Interstate 275 lately in north Tampa from Bearss Avenue (Exit 53) to the northern terminus at Interstate 75 (Exit 274), you will notice that the highway has been widened from the original four lanes from that section’s early days as the original Interstate 75 to six lanes.  This will have Interstate 275 through the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area generally six lanes with some four lane exceptions in certain spots, such as at Interstate 175 (Exit 22) in downtown St. Petersburg.  From 54 Av S/FL 682 (Exit 17) south across the Sunshine Skyway to the southern terminus at Interstate 75 (Exit 228), Interstate 275 will remain at four lanes.

You can thank rapid growth in the Wesley Chapel area despite the economic downturn for why Interstate 275 had to be widened.  More and more people live a great distance from major employment centers such as downtown Tampa (and downtown St. Petersburg too) and for most people, a commute to work on Interstate 275 is a necessity.  Remember too that our region still has inept mass transit which makes owning a car a must in our area.

Now that the section of Interstate 275 in north Tampa has been widened, another major Interstate 275 construction project has begun as I have seen the erection of large construction signage including the signage warning motorists that speeding fines are doubled in construction zones.  This is the section of Interstate 275 in Tampa from just south of the Ashley/Tampa/Scott Street exit (Exit 44) across the Hillsborough River to FL 60 and the exit for Tampa International Airport (Exit 39).

To give you an example, you have more than likely rode on the new northbound section of Interstate 275 from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to downtown Tampa while southbound traffic on Interstate 275 rides on the old northbound lanes.  What basically will happen over the course of a few years is that the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 will be reconstructed on a new alignment in the same manner as the existing new section of Interstate 275 stands.  The southbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa will be reconstructed basically on the site of the old southbound lanes and will look similar to the new northbound section of Interstate 275 that is currently in use.

The Tampa Bay Interstates site has more information on lane closures and detours that may be necessary as the project progresses.  According to the Tampa Bay Interstates site, construction is scheduled to be completed in the Summer of 2016.  As with any major Interstate 275 project, this is going to mean delays, road closures and detours as needed, but the end result will be a better, wider and safer Interstate 275 that we can use.

Interstate275Florida.com Revamped

If you were having some difficulty logging on to Interstate275Florida.com for some time Sunday evening (11 March 2012), it’s because I just uploaded several revisions to the Interstate 275 Florida website for your reading pleasure! After all, with all the construction taking place at any given moment out there on Interstate 275 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, I try to make the changes as time permits.

Here are the highlights of the additions and changes I have made:

On the northern terminus page, I have changed out the pictures for the exit onto FL 56. Originally the Florida DOT designated this exit as Interstate 75’s Exit 275 but as I reported in an earlier post the potential for motorist confusion existed. So, on go the overlays (also known as FDOT Green-Out, akin to the white-out that you use when you need to correct something on paper; white-out sure beats the old fashioned Liquid Paper these days!) and Exit 275 (FL 56) has been redesignated as Exit 59 for northbound Interstate 275.

Let’s head over the Howard Frankland Bridge to St. Petersburg and I have noticed that the Exit Only panels on northbound Interstate 275 at 54 Av N (Exit 26) were getting unreadable. What does the Florida DOT do to correct this despite the tough budget times that the State of Florida is in? Place a yellow overlay with the words “Exit Only” in wider FHWA Highway Gothic font over the existing sign! The folks over at the Florida DOT District 7 camp on McKinley Drive in Tampa (located south of the University of South Florida’s main Tampa Campus on Fowler Avenue) like to come up with creative ways to extend the life of a highway sign to get more mileage out of the signage for many years.

OK. Let’s zip back on the Howard Frankland Bridge through downtown Tampa over to Fowler Avenue (Exit 51). A project is underway to make two right turn lanes for traffic coming from northbound Interstate 275; this should provide some relief for motorists headed to destinations east of Interstate 275 on Fowler Avenue, particularly the University of South Florida so that students can get to classes on time.

Let’s do a U-turn underneath the overpass at Fowler Avenue and head back south on Interstate 275 towards the world’s finest airport, Tampa International Airport. As you have noticed, the airport interchange has undergone a major transformation from the short ramps that were built in the early 1970’s to the major, if not better, ramps that were built. So, I have added a section of pictures that reflect the newly built ramps of the airport interchange reconstruction project and I have left up the ramps that were built in the early 1970’s before construction began so that you can get a good perspective of before and after.

I am also announcing a new feature here on Interstate275Florida.com. As you probably have noticed already, gas prices are topping over the $4.00/gallon mark with no end in sight. Naturally, I can’t help tame these high gas prices but I can show you where you can find the cheapest gas out there. As such, I have teamed up with TampaGasPrices.com – part of GasBuddy.com – to provide you with where you can find the cheapest gas prices in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the Gas Prices page today!

So, there you have it: Changes and additions to Interstate275Florida.com to help keep up with the construction going on. Keep checking back here at Interstate275Florida.com frequently and often – in fact, put Interstate275Florida.com in your browser’s bookmarks so that you can refer to it frequently and often.

Changes coming to northbound Interstate 275 at Exits 39A and 39B

Changes are around the corner for those of you that are headed to Tampa International Airport from St. Petersburg on northbound Interstate 275!

For many years, you used Exit 39A to reach Kennedy Blvd. (FL 60) and Tampa or Exit 39B to reach Tampa International Airport as well as Clearwater or the Veterans Expressway. Well, on 7 September 2010 that’s going to change.

Recently the Florida DOT has made improvements to the off ramp system for Exit 39 from northbound Interstate 275. The new improvements call for traffic headed to either Kennedy Blvd. or Tampa International Airport to exit from one point which will be further west of where you used to exit for Kennedy Blvd. (Exit 39A). Once you enter the new exit ramp you will be presented with a choice for either Kennedy Blvd. (which will branch off to the right) or Tampa International Airport (which will be straight ahead).

What does this mean for you?

This will organize all traffic on northbound Interstate 275 headed for either Kennedy Blvd. and nearby Westshore Plaza or Tampa International Airport, rather than have traffic leave Interstate 275 at two exit points within Exit 39. It’s sort of a collector and distributor ramp in that the collector part is traffic exiting from Interstate 275 northbound and the distributor part is traffic headed to either Kennedy Blvd. or Tampa International Airport. Doesn’t that make sense?

When the new ramp opens, the A/B designations will no longer be in effect and Exit 39 from northbound Interstate 275 will be known as just that, Exit 39. As for the page on Interstate275Florida.com, I’ll be making the updates as soon as the exit ramp is fully open to traffic.

Now I want to hear from you about the new northbound on Interstate 275 at Exit 39 experience. Is it a change for the better or is it confusing?

Southbound Howard Frankland is closed: What to do?

In light of a major accident that happened on Sunday afternoon, 27 September 2009, that closed Interstate 275 at the Howard Frankland Bridge the variable message signs were informing motorists headed south on Interstate 275 towards St. Petersburg to use FL 60/Spruce Street.

For your information, the Florida DOT has this information wrong. Yes you could use FL 60 but you will end up taking a roundabout detour across the Courtney Campbell Causeway and eventually into St. Petersburg by way of Clearwater. You got that right – head through Clearwater.

But you do not want to go to Clearwater. You want to go to St. Petersburg.

You are on southbound Interstate 275 and you just passed downtown Tampa which provides access to the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and to the Gandy Bridge. Or, you are at Tampa International Airport and you are stuck not wondering what to do.

OK.

I am going to give you a secret as to how to get to St. Petersburg from Tampa in case the Howard Frankland Bridge is closed without having to backtrack into downtown Tampa to catch the Crosstown. It’s easy.

First, for those of you on southbound Interstate 275 and the variable message signs tell you the Howard Frankland Bridge is closed and you are getting very close to the last exit in Tampa, Exit 39. Take Exit 40A, which is Westshore Blvd., and head south. Westshore goes into a two lane road south of Kennedy Blvd. but follow Westshore all the way to Gandy Blvd., a distance of about two or three miles. Take a right on Gandy and follow Gandy across the Gandy Bridge into St. Petersburg. Once across the Gandy Bridge continue west on Gandy Blvd. to Interstate 275 and reenter Interstate 275 from there. Sounds good enough?

Second, for those of you coming out of Tampa International Airport and you find that the Florida Highway Patrol has closed the entrance ramp to southbound Interstate 275 to St. Petersburg, here’s what to do. You will see signage for FL 616, which is eastbound Spruce Street – exit onto Spruce Street and head east for about a mile to Westshore Blvd. Turn right onto Westshore Blvd. and head south; you will go under Interstate 275 and pass Kennedy Blvd. and Westshore Plaza on the right but you want to keep heading south on Westshore Blvd. As mentioned previously Westshore goes into a two lane road south of Kennedy Blvd. but follow Westshore all the way to Gandy Blvd., a distance of about two or three miles. Take a right on Gandy and follow Gandy across the Gandy Bridge into St. Petersburg. Once across the Gandy Bridge continue west on Gandy Blvd. to Interstate 275 and reenter Interstate 275 from there. Sounds better?

Now you have the secret in case the Howard Frankland Bridge southbound is closed and you are too far from the Crosstown Expressway in Tampa: Westshore Blvd. and Gandy Blvd. And believe me, if you are headed towards St. Petersburg from Tampa it’s much quicker than following the “recommended” detour through Clearwater courtesy of the Florida DOT.

And one more thing. Remember to check your speed when traveling Westshore Blvd., especially the section south of Kennedy Blvd. to Gandy Blvd. The speed limit is 30 mph and the men and women in blue of the Tampa Police Department enforce the speed limit. That means if you use Westshore Blvd. as a detour please be respectful of the neighborhood as you pass through.

The same thing goes for Gandy Blvd. and the Gandy Bridge: The speed limits on Gandy Blvd. are enforced not only by Tampa PD on the Tampa end but also by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on the St. Petersburg end (the St. Petersburg end is unincorporated Pinellas County until just before 4 St N). So please watch your speed and allow extra time if Interstate 275 at the Howard Frankland Bridge is closed.

Finally, I feel that commuter rail utilizing the center of Interstate 275 is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity if the Tampa Bay area as a region wants to succeed when America pulls itself out of the current recession. No matter why more prominent companies will not relocate to the Tampa Bay area due to inept mass transit.

New Ramp From TIA to Southbound Interstate 275 Set To Open

For those of you coming out of Tampa International Airport and headed to St. Petersburg, rejoice!

A new flyover ramp is scheduled to open Friday morning, 1/16/09. This ramp will take you straight from Tampa International Airport to southbound Interstate 275 without having to go through all the merges and lane changes of the past. I have rode by there recently and from looking at how the new ramp is constructed, it will be like a “red carpet” for those headed to St. Petersburg from Tampa International Airport.

When the new ramp opens, watch for signage in the area that will direct you onto the new ramp if you are headed to St. Petersburg. Beware: Once you get on that new ramp, there is no exit from Interstate 275 until you reach Exit 32 (which is the 4 St N exit) in St. Petersburg; this means a trip across the Howard Frankland Bridge. On the other hand, if you are headed to Tampa, continue to follow the other flyover ramp as you have done in the past.

According to the Florida DOT, the ramp is scheduled to open between 1 AM and 5 AM on Friday morning, 1/16/09. So get ready for a new airport to St. Petersburg via Interstate 275 experience!

Just in time for Christmas – Interstate 275, that is!

As you probably know already, we have had some changes in traffic patterns and a lane of Interstate 75 at Exit 301 has recently reopened.

First, Interstate 75 at Exit 301…

The right southbound lane as it crosses FL 50 and US 98 has recently reopened ahead of schedule. I have not been by there yet to check it out, but I got to give the Florida DOT credit for having this important interstate highway repaired in the shortest time possible.

Second, the Tampa International Airport interchange north of Interstate 275…

Several new ramps have opened in the area enabling traffic from the Veterans Expressway (FL Toll 589) as well as coming from the Courtney Campell Causeway (FL 60) to free flow more better into Tampa International Airport as well as Interstate 275.

One of the new ramps involves getting onto Spruce Street from FL 60 east. It used to be that you had to exit to the right before construction and most recently you had to exit to the left. That has changed and motorists can transition from eastbound FL 60 to Spruce Street using a new overpass, exiting to the right.

Another new ramp involves getting onto the George Bean Parkway into Tampa International Airport. Back in the old days when you came from the Veterans Expressway or Clearwater you got off and had to take the circular right turn ramp. Now you can transition from eastbound FL 60 to Tampa International Airport using a new overpass as well.

And did I say another new ramp? There’s a new ramp that has opened that enables motorists to transition from westbound FL 60 or from Interstate 275 onto Spruce Street without having to detour through the airport. This is a replacement ramp for those of you that were used to exiting onto Cypress Street coming from St. Petersburg on northbound Interstate 275 at Exit 39B when that direct access ramp to Cypress Street had to be closed permanently to make way for more new ramps as part of the airport interchange project.

Getting to Cypress Street is simple from St. Petersburg on northbound Interstate 275: After taking Exit 39B, follow the signs for Spruce Street and exit there. Once on Spruce Street, go to the first traffic signal which is O’Brien Street and take a right. Follow O’Brien Street for about half a mile and that will place you onto Cypress Street. Isn’t that easy?

And more ramps in the Tampa International Airport area are on the horizon, including a ramp that will deliver you straight onto southbound Interstate 275 from the airport if you are headed for St. Petersburg. Talk about red carpet service!

In closing, I would like to say Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year 2009!

A new way to get to Interstate 275 from Tampa International Airport

On Saturday, 22 December 2007 (just in time for Christmas!) a new flyover has opened for traffic headed for Interstate 275 from Tampa International Airport and the way you get to Interstate 275 to St. Petersburg or Tampa or FL 60 if you are headed for the Veterans Expressway or Clearwater by way of the Courtney Campbell Causeway from the airport will be modified slightly.

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.

One of the many signs on the new ramp to Interstate 275 from TIA

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.