Facebook Account Needed for Commenting on Posts

For years since the Interstate 275 Florida Blog existed on Blogger I have allowed anonymous commenting with moderation.  Most of the comments were OK but there were some comments that I have had to disapprove on the rare few occasions.

Now that we’re on WordPress, a great feature of WordPress is that you can use a plugin to allow anyone with a Facebook account to comment.  I have noticed that when users use their Facebook account to comment on a blog entry there is more accountability as to who is posting comments.  In fact, about a couple of months ago the Tampa Bay Times switched to a commenting system which requires a Facebook account when their website was revamped; before then you could have either a Facebook account or a site registration account in order to comment.

So, I am making a major change to my commenting policy when it comes to commenting on blog entries here at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.  It will expand soon to my other blog, the Edward Ringwald Blog, when I get that blog transitioned from Blogger to WordPress.  In order to comment on a blog entry, you will need a Facebook account.

Don’t have a Facebook account?  No worries!  It’s as simple as visiting Facebook’s home page and registering for an account.

 

The Interstate 275 Florida Blog: Now on WordPress!

As you’re probably aware, the Interstate 275 Florida Website has been around since 2003 and the Interstate 275 Blog has been around since 2007.  When I started the Interstate 275 Blog I hosted it on Blogger which is easy to use for the beginner who wants to get into blogging.  I agree, Blogger has a lot of good features that are easy to use, and I can’t complain about that!

But over the years, I needed something better to help manage the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.  When I changed web hosting companies in January 2018 my new web hosting provider, InMotion Hosting, gives me more for my money when it comes to hosting not only the Interstate 275 Florida website but my other websites, EdwardRIngwald.com, DrawBridgeAhead.com and my website portal, EdwardRingwaldWebsites.com:  The ability to host blogs and forums and a whole lot more, more than what my previous web hosting provider had.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about WordPress, and I like the better capabilities that WordPress provides over Blogger.  So, I went ahead and installed WordPress on my site and I was extremely impressed at the look and feel over Blogger.

Right after I completed installation of WordPress it was just a matter of fine tuning WordPress to my liking including adding the cover pictures to the elements of the blog.  Then it came time to import the blog entries from Blogger over to WordPress.

And I am very impressed!  That said, I want to say welcome to the new home of the Interstate 275 Blog, powered by WordPress.

From this day forward, all new posts for the Interstate 275 Florida Blog will be on the WordPress platform.  For the time being, the Interstate 275 Florida Blog on the Blogger platform will be maintained as a legacy blog meaning no new entries or updates will be made on the Blogger platform.  Eventually, I intend to set it up so that if you go to a blog entry on the Blogger platform you will be redirected to the new WordPress platform.

One more thing, and this is just a reminder on commenting:  When you comment on an entry, please keep it clean as the Interstate 275 Florida Website and Blog are family friendly sites, and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way.  In addition, you may want to review the Community Guidelines for the Interstate 275 Florida Blog over at my website portal, EdwardRingwaldWebsites.com.

Once again, welcome to the new home of the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, proudly powered by WordPress!

Southbound Interstate 75 at Exit 301 Alert!

As you probably know by now, a serious accident has occurred today (Tuesday, 9 December 2008) on Interstate 75 at Exit 301, which is also known as FL 50 and US 98 near Brooksville. A dump truck traveling eastbound on FL 50 hit a few of the concrete girders that carry southbound Interstate 75 over FL 50 causing severe damage. The damage is almost similar to an accident that happened in June 2008 over at Interstate 75’s Exit 224, US 301, but on a smaller scale.

According to a Bay News 9 article and the pictures it appears that the girders carrying the right southbound lane will need replacement. Moreover, traffic on FL 50is reduced to two-way traffic as crews begin the process of cleaning up the damage and eventually replacement of the damaged concrete beams. The overpasses were constructed around 1964 when one of the many segments of the original Interstate 75 was opened in north and central Florida.

Until the concrete beams are replaced, it is going to mean lane closures and major inconveniences both for southbound Interstate 75 and FL 50 in both directions. Depending on the extent of the damage, the repairs may result from replacement of the damaged beams in question to replacement of the segment of overpass; that is up to the Florida DOT.

Northbound Interstate 75 crossing FL 50. This 2006 photo illustrates what the overpass looks like.

As with any construction or repair project, this is going to mean inconveniences such as barricades, long waits in traffic and heavy Florida Highway Patrol and Hernando County Sheriff’s Office presence. Here is what to expect if your travels take you in the vicinity of Interstate 75 at Exit 301 in the next few weeks as crews work feverishly to get the overpass repaired:

INTERSTATE 75:

All exit and entrance ramps are open; however, expect delays especially if you are entering or exiting on Interstate 75 southbound.

Northbound Interstate 75 is not affected. Be aware of reduced speeds that may be in place.

Southbound Interstate 75 is affected. The right lane of the overpass as it crosses FL 50 will be closed for some time as crews will have to take out the damaged beams and replace them with new beams to match the rest of the beams on the overpass, which was constructed around 1964. If you are headed on southbound Interstate 75 expect to move over to the left lane just before you get to Exit 301. Also be aware of reduced speeds that may be posted in the area.

Should the Florida DOT decide on complete replacement of the segment of southbound Interstate 75 overpass crossing the eastbound lanes of FL 50 it will mean temporary reconfiguration of Interstate 75 similar to that over at Exit 224 earlier this year.

FL 50/US 98:

Both directions of FL 50 are open. However, traffic will be narrowed to two lanes utilizing the westbound lanes of FL 50 as you go under Interstate 75.

Hopefully the repairs should take a few weeks to complete, depending on the extent of the damage to the overpass. If you make this section of Interstate 75 at Exit 301a part of your daily travels I would like to hear from you. Please drive safely when going through this area and be safe.

The Interstate275Florida.com Website Transition is Done!

After one week without a web host, Interstate275Florida.com is back in business!

It’s a long story, but in the end we have solved our technical issues and we are back online. You may notice that many of the features of Interstate275Florida.com are back with a few exceptions. For example, the Interstate 375 and Interstate 175 pages have still yet to be fine tuned, but I’ll have them up shortly.

Now I need your help.

I have checked the website for functionality prior to publishing it to the server. However, if you come across anything (such as broken links) that I should be made aware of please feel free to contact me using the Feedback page on Interstate275Florida.com.

Hopefully you will like the new format I have given Interstate275Florida.com and I welcome your comments. Thanks for your patience as the transition was done. And by the way, more on the technical aspects of why Interstate275Florida.com was offline for a week later.

The Interstate275Florida.com Website Transition is Underway!

This weekend I will begin the transition of Interstate275Florida.com over to a new server along with the updated content as I discussed in a previous blog entry.

During the transition anyone accessing the Interstate275Florida.com site will be redirected to a page over at my sister site EdwardRingwald.com informing that the Interstate275Florida.com site is under maintenance. However, there will be a link to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, which will remain open during the transition process.

Hopefully the transition should go smoothly and I’ll have the Interstate275Florida.com website back up and running as soon as possible.

Interstate 275 Widening in Tampa

Last week (17 February 2008) when the traffic pattern was shifted on Interstate 275 just past Exit 42 (Armenia and Howard Avenues) traffic got so bad that backups clear across the Howard Frankland Bridge into St. Petersburg beginning just after Exit 32 (4 St N/FL 687) are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Were you among one of the many commuters stuck on Interstate 275 and, somehow, you were late for work or that important meeting in Tampa? Or, did you miss your flight from Tampa International Airport?

Some of you tried to get around this by using the Gandy Bridge (US 92) as an alternative. No can do, due to construction and backups on the eastbound span of the Gandy Bridge. (That’s right, there is work going on at Gandy Blvd. in Tampa!)

There is indeed a widening project going on at Interstate 275 in Tampa. That’s right, we need it to help alleviate congestion. The first segment from just west of Ashley Drive/Tampa Street/Scott Street (Exit 44) westward to Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) is just the icing of the cake – it’s part of a bigger project to give Interstate 275 in Tampa a major overhaul.

On Monday, 25 February 2008 I came across one of Bay News 9’s “I-Polls” where you can vote and leave a comment. The topic was about how the construction on Interstate 275 in Tampa will bring needed relief. Well, I got some bad news for you: Even with the improvements made there will not be any congestion relief for Interstate 275.

Why?

First, here is a comment I left at Bay News 9:

The widening of Interstate 275 in Tampa will bring some relief but not the relief hoped for. It is going to take a twenty lane Interstate 275 at least to solve our traffic woes. But what we desperately need here in the Tampa Bay area is rail based mass transit and it is needed now – not five years, not ten years, not twenty years! No matter why corporations won’t come to the Tampa Bay region and fewer people move here all because of lack of a workable mass transit system and increasingly unaffordable housing.

If you want to live close to work (and your place of work is in a downtown area like Tampa or St. Petersburg), forget it. Unaffordable housing in the Tampa Bay area is making people take commutes of an hour or more from outlying areas such as Pasco or Hernando Counties. Not only you are throwing money down the drain in commuting costs (when will we see gasoline top $4.00 a gallon? Count on it!), you are paying high insurance due to your long commute to and from work!

So you can’t find a place close to work that is affordable for you. You explore alternatives like our present day mass transit system provided courtesy of HART and PSTA. Unfortunately, your work schedule conflicts with the bus schedules, so a car is a must.

The result: A highly clogged Interstate 275 and you are stuck in traffic going nowhere.

Now for the real solution to the clogged Interstate 275 mess, even after it’s all said and done: Rail based mass transit. Baltimore has it. Washington, DC has it. Los Angeles has it. Ft. Lauderdale and Miami have it. And Orlando is going to be getting it soon. But the Tampa Bay area lacks a great rail based mass transit system.

Why rail? Buses are great but they are subject to the same traffic gridlock you and I are used to when we drive. Rail based mass transit would provide an excellent alternative to sitting in traffic on Interstate 275 all day. Besides, you can sit back and enjoy the trip to the office rather than be stressed out.

Rail based mass transit is what the Tampa Bay area really needs, rather than a twenty lane Interstate 275. Besides, land for any expansion of Interstate 275 is at a premium and it gets very expensive.

And rail based mass transit can provide a much needed boost to the Tampa Bay area economy. Complement that with a properly widened Interstate 275 and there you go.

By the way, if all goes as planned this segment of Interstate 275 being reconstructed in Tampa is slated to be done in 2010, according to the folks at the Florida DOT. Now I want to hear from you your Interstate 275 in Tampa experiences!

Interstate 275 and the two feeders in St. Petersburg: To set the record straight

Recently I received an email through the Interstate275Florida.com feedback page from someone claiming to be a professional highway engineer. Why I say the word “claiming” is that sometimes there are people out there who say they are when in fact they are not.

Here is the text of the email I received (I edited it to clean up the language):

Hi, I’m a professional highway engineer. I don’t know how you can get so excited about a … joke of an interstate highway, which is what I-275 is, and pathetically it is the only freeway in Pinellas County! (I-175 and I-375 are simply glorified feeder ramps and do not deserve to have their own route number).

I am going to set the record straight as to why Interstate 275 was pushed through southern Pinellas County and the two feeder highways, Interstate 375 and Interstate 175.

First, when the interstate system was being constructed in the Tampa Bay area in the 1960’s and 1970’s Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg as we know it today was not going to be Interstate 275 in the first place. The highway was initially supposed to be a continuation of Interstate 4 which was planned to end around St. Pete Beach (and it was not intended to be routed over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to begin with, as it was a two-lane cantilever span back then). The only reminder of what it was yesterday can be found on a mileage sign as you drive northbound on Interstate 275 as you pass the 4 St N (Exit 32) exit: Tampa International Airport 7 miles, Tampa 11 miles and Lakeland 45 miles. Now we know that Lakeland is not on Interstate 275 – it’s on Interstate 4.

Second, when the Florida DOT decided to push Interstate 75 through Tampa southward to Miami, Interstate 4 was truncated at what we Tampa Bay area residents know as “malfunction junction”, which is Interstate 275’s Exit 45B in Tampa. Interstate 75 was simply extended over the Howard Frankland Bridge into St. Petersburg.

Third, a Tampa bypass was in the works as Interstate 75 was being pushed through St. Petersburg and it was initially going to be Interstate 75E. But the organization responsible for the numbering of our nation’s interstate highways, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (or AASHTO for short), put an end to the practice of letter-suffixing interstate highway numbers. So, the Florida DOT decided on routing Interstate 75 over the bypass route and renumbering Interstate 75 as it was being constructed through St. Petersburg as Interstate 275.

Fourth, what about our two feeder interstate highways in downtown St. Petersburg, Interstates 375 and 175? I believe these highways are not “glorified feeder ramps” as referred to in the email I received; instead these two short highways are spur routes of Interstate 275 that serve the downtown St. Petersburg area. Remember, as these interstate highways are spur routes (meaning they end with no interstate highway connection at the other end) the first digit in the three digit number will be odd. Back when Interstate 4 was planned the feeder routes were only shown on planning documents as Interstates 304 and 104.

By the way, a ramp is a short one- or two-lane low speed road that connects a street or highway to or from an interstate highway in a safe manner. Interstates 375 and 175 have their own exit and entrance ramps just like Interstate 275: Interstate 375 at Martin Luther King St N, 8 St N (entrance only), 4 Av N and 5 Av N just before 5 St N (eastern terminus) and Interstate 175 at Martin Luther King St S and 6 St S (westbound entrance and eastbound exit only) as well as 5 Av S (eastbound terminus exit only) and 4 St S (westbound entrance). But the mainline of both Interstates 375 and 175 are identical to the mainline of Interstate 275 for the two feeders’ entire length.

And fifth, southern Pinellas was the only part of Pinellas County to have the totally controlled access freeway, which we know today as Interstate 275. Back in the 1960’s and early to mid-1970’s Clearwater and northern Pinellas County was not as developed as it is today. In other words, interstate highway service into Clearwater back then was not justified. But contrast this to the Clearwater and northern Pinellas County as we know today: That was a big mistake.

However, with the conversion of US 19 in Clearwater and northern Pinellas County to an interstate-like highway I would advocate a connection to Interstate 275, starting south on US 19 around Palm Harbor and routing it all the way to just north of Park/Gandy Blvd. (FL 694). Then have the new highway turn east and follow an upgraded version of Gandy Blvd. passing Interstate 275 (which would have a reconfigured interchange) to Tampa, connecting it at the Crosstown Expressway. Besides, an upgraded Gandy would be a beneficial hurricane evacuation route. We could call this highway Interstate 875 and I have an idea for a Gandy makeover and Interstate 875 here at Interstate275Florida.com simply by clicking here.

While we are on the subject of route numbers, posting a route number is not as easy as you think. For a route newly constructed or upgraded to interstate standards to get an interstate route number this is what has to be done. First, an application has to be submitted to AASHTO from the Florida DOT (or any other states’ DOT for that matter) that details the justification and need. Second, AASHTO reviews the request and makes a decision: If the request is denied the application is sent back to the requestor; however, if the application is approved there is one more step. Third, an application approved by AASHTO to establish and/or change an interstate route number has to be sent to the Federal Highway Administration within the United States DOT for their review and concurrence. Now you see?

Let’s backtrack for a moment on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and its role as an interstate highway. When the original cantilever spans were built in 1954 and 1971, these spans were not up to interstate standards. When the decision was made to push Interstate 75 southward to Miami the twin cantilever bridges of the Sunshine Skyway were proposed to be brought up to interstate standards. However, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster on 9 May 1980 turned things around a bit: For a while the Sunshine Skyway was being considered as not being part of Interstate 275. In 1981 Interstate 275’s future insofar as the Sunshine Skyway was concerned had a bright outlook as a new cable stayed bridge as we know it today would replace the two incompatible cantilever spans.

Hopefully I should set the record straight as to why Interstate 275 was pushed through St. Petersburg and southern Pinellas County and the reasoning behind the two feeder interstates in downtown St. Petersburg, Interstates 375 and 175. As always, I welcome your comments!

Happy New Year from Interstate275Florida.com!

First I want to wish all of our Interstate275Florida.com viewers a prosperous new year 2008!

2007 brought about some much needed maintenance work on Interstate 275, especially in the St. Petersburg area. We have seen several concrete pavement rehabilitation projects in various locations along Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. More notably, work is almost done on the concrete rehabilitation project from Gandy Blvd. (Exit 28) to north of 54 Av N (Exit 26) at the 62 Av N overpass. Further south, there is still work going on at Interstate 175 as well as Interstate 275 south of Interstate 175 (Exit 22) to north of 22 Av S (Exit 19).

Meanwhile, over on the Tampa side, 2007 saw the start of work that will eventually transform Interstate 275 into a wider highway starting with the section from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) towards the Hillsborough River and Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets (Exit 44). Additionally, the Tampa International Airport interchanges began to start taking its new shape slowly with the recent opening of the new flyover not too long ago as I mentioned in a previous post. We also can’t forget the installation of several new electronic variable message signs that inform us of distance and time to a given exit as well as informing us of any congestion.

As you and I know already, construction on Interstate 275 whether it’s concrete rehabilitation or an all new makeover has its inconveniences: Barricades, barrels, reduced speed limits, Florida Highway Patrol presence, and construction equipment everywhere. But in the end, we will have a newer yet safer Interstate 275 not only for us Tampa Bay area residents but for everyone else as well.

As always, updates to the Interstate275Florida.com site will be made as construction progresses and new permanent signage is posted. In the meantime, have a safe happy new year!

Gentlemen, start your (reconstruction) engines!

Just when you thought all is said and done on Interstate 4, another interstate reconstruction project is just about to get underway.

Did I say another interstate reconstruction project? Yes! Those projects where we have to dodge the construction barrels and barricades, endure heavier than normal traffic and reduced speed limits, not to mention the temporary roadways that will be in place as the project progresses.

Only this time, it’s on Interstate 275 in Tampa from SR 60 (Exit 39) to the Hillsborough River just west of Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets (Exit 44). However, the project is being done in three stages with the first stage from Himes Avenue eastward to the Hillsborough River (according to the folks at the Florida DOT at their Tampa Bay Interstates site, Interstate 275 from Exit 39 to the Hillsborough River was supposed to be done as one big project but the bids came in too high; instead, the FDOT decided to break up this project into three segments for cost reasons). So, here’s the scoop on what will take place over the next few years from what I understand so far:

1. Construct the new northbound lanes using newly acquired right of way.

2. Once the new northbound lanes are open, direct traffic onto the new northbound lanes. At the same time, convert the existing northbound lanes into temporary southbound lanes.

3. Demolish the existing southbound lanes and construct new southbound lanes.

4. Once the new southbound lanes are open, demolish the existing northbound lanes.

Once this segment from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to the Hillsborough River is done, start with the next segment. However, I am not sure if the FDOT will be doing the segments concurrently or staggered (in other words, work on one segment at a time or do the segments with three different contractors basically at the same time).

Once this is said and done on all three Interstate 275 segments, we should see eight lanes of travel, four lanes northbound and four lanes southbound plus a spacious median which can accommodate light rail or commuter rail based transit.

Did I say light rail or commuter rail based transit?

There was a recent Bay News 9 Viewer Center iPoll on 6 August 2007 asking viewers if the construction on Interstate 275 will make a difference as to traffic congestion in the Tampa Bay area when all is said and done. According to a response I posted, I think in the short term the improvements to Interstate 275 should address the traffic congestion issue but in the long run, it is not going to work without the introduction of rail-based mass transit.

Rail based mass transit is desperately needed in the Tampa Bay area for a lot of reasons, and the one chief reason is growth. We have commuters who live out there in the suburbs (like New Tampa, Carrollwood, Lutz and Palm Harbor just to name a few) and work in places such as downtown Tampa or downtown St. Petersburg or even in the Carillon area of northeast St. Petersburg. Why? You can thank unaffordable housing for one thing because most areas close to work are probably out of the price range, thereby having to live so far away and commute a long distance to work daily. We need a rail based mass transit system that will serve the three principal communities of the Tampa Bay area – Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater – supplanted by a system of feeder buses that will run between the smaller communities and the nearest rail station for a seamless commute to and from work. Don’t forget the weekends and holidays too!

When we get Interstate 275 all said and done as to the proposed reconstruction we as a Tampa Bay area should seriously consider looking at rail based mass transit. The wide medians on the newly reconstructed segments of Interstate 4 and (coming soon) Interstate 275 should allow for the implementation of a rail based mass transit system. On the other hand, I came up with a drawing of what could happen if out transit needs go unchecked and we have to eventually expand Interstate 275 to at least 20 lanes:

After all, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has rail based mass transit. So does Washington DC and Baltimore. So does Los Angeles. Don’t forget, Orlando is getting rail based mass transit soon. But if we Tampa Bay area residents don’t do anything about fixing our transit issues after Interstate 275 is reconstructed this is what navigating the Tampa Bay area will be like: New York City without the subway or commuter rail (and imagine the gridlock).

Tips for navigating Interstate 275 when it rains!

It’s the summer season already, and by now if not already the summer thundershowers common to the Tampa Bay area are here. For those who are visiting us or on the afternoon commute home from work here are some tips for when you encounter our summer thundershowers on Interstate 275.

Driving in our summer thundershowers on Interstate 275 calls for special attention!

1. Most importantly, reduce your speed when you approach the rain and the trail of brake lights. 65 or 70 mph does not mean 65 or 70 mph all the time – you are supposed to drive in a reasonable and prudent manner when you approach an area of reduced visibility not only with rain but smoke or fog.

2. Ease up on your accelerator and don’t attempt to stop suddenly – the oily slick interstate created by the rain is a recipe for an accident caused by skidding. If you have to use your brakes, tap on them lightly but slowly.

3. Give driving your 100% attention especially during the summer thundershowers – the cell phone call can wait until you are in a safe place.

4. The only time you want to use your 4-way flashers is if you are pulled over in an emergency situation. 4-way flashers are not meant to be used while your vehicle is in motion; in heavy rain someone can run into you thinking that you are stopped. Speaking of emergency situations if your vehicle breaks down for any reason please by all means pull over to the nearest shoulder so that you are not obstructing traffic in any way.

5. Turn on your headlights, even if you have daytime running lamps. The daytime running lamps do not turn on your vehicle’s rear tail lights when you need it. Remember to turn them off when you reach your destination to avoid a dead battery. Besides, having headlights on during rain as well as fog or smoke is mandatory per Florida Statutes.

6. Allow extra time to get to your destination, especially if you have to be somewhere at a given time. Leave early if you can.

7. Make sure your wipers and tires are in excellent condition for the road. Also check your windshield washer reservoir periodically and replenish as needed. Sometimes a light rain occurs and you have to use your windshield washers on the road as well.

8. If you breakdown on Interstate 275 or any other highway in the Tampa Bay area, pull over in a safe place such as the nearest shoulder. You may call *FHP (*347) on your cell phone to request a road ranger be sent to your location.

If we can follow these safe practices for navigating Interstate 275 during the summer thundershowers we can get to our destinations safely especially during the rain! If you have any other safety tips for summer thunderstorm driving please feel free to reply at any time. Thanks!