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.

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!