Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sunset of 2011 and the Sunrise of 2012

It's New Year's Eve, and that means everyone will be out there partying until the stroke of Midnight when 2011 gives way to 2012. However, New Years Eve can be a memorable experience for you if you celebrate responsibly.

I posted some helpful tips on celebrating New Year's Eve safely that was inspired by a Bay News 9 article on this subject. I recently expanded this topic and turned these tips into a PDF document which I have made available on on a permanent basis simply by clicking on this link. It's easy to celebrate the holidays safely, and it's not just restricted to New Year's Eve.

I put these tips here as a reminder of the most common danger of being out and about on New Year's Eve (as well as any other major holiday), especially out there on Interstate 275 as well as other major highways in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area: Drinking and driving. I post these tips out there as a public service in the hope that needless accidents can be prevented, especially around New Year's Eve.

After all, the Florida Highway Patrol - along with other law enforcement agencies in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area - will be out in full force looking out for impaired drivers. If you drink and get behind the wheel, and a state trooper sees you driving erraticly or you have the misfortune of going through a DUI checkpoint, expect to spend the beginning of the new year with a pair of steel handcuffs, placed behind your back and double locked, and being taken to either the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jail depending on where you get arrested and spending time in a holding cell until you sober up.

As a reminder, if your New Year's Eve celebrations include drinking, please, please do one of three things:

1. Designate a driver.

2. Call a taxi to take you home. You can retrieve your car the next day.

3. Spend the night at a hotel or a friend's house. Even if rates are high for New Year's Eve or any other major holiday, it's much better (and much cheaper) to pay for a room at the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg Bayfront or any other hotel than face the consequences of DUI if you are caught.

Ask yourself: Would you rather pay $120 for a hotel room for one night or $20,000 for taking a chance by drinking and driving? Let's see:

$120: Can pay for one night's hotel room on New Year's Eve (approximately).

$20,000: Can pay for your first DUI, and we're talking DUI that does not involve property damage, bodily injury or even death. It includes, among other things:

Court imposed fines
Court imposed costs
Attorney's fees
Cost for ignition interlock
Cost to retrieve your vehicle from the impound lot
Mandatory DUI school
Increased insurance costs
And the list goes on and on...

It's your choice.

Again, do yourself a favor and if you had even one drink, don't get behind the wheel and drive! Let's start 2012 on the right note!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sunshine Skyway: Coming Soon to a Postage Stamp Near You

Soon the Sunshine Skyway will be featured on a postage stamp. You got that right, a U.S. postage stamp.

I was amazed to see the Sunshine Skyway finally earning its place on a postage stamp. After all, the current Sunshine Skyway - opened in 1987 - is a bridge that not only carries Interstate 275 and US 19, it is a iconic symbol of what we are in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

The Sunshine Skyway is also a symbol of triumph over tragedy. Seven years before the current Sunshine Skyway opened tragedy struck on a rainy and stormy morning at 7:38 AM on 9 May 1980 when the Summit Venture collided with an anchor pier immediately adjacent to the main channel pier on the southbound span which opened in 1971. Upon impact the anchor pier was sheared off at its base causing a major chain of events which led to a majority of the southbound main span falling 150 feet into the waters of Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, 35 lives were lost that fateful morning which included passengers on a Miami-bound Greyhound Bus.

The northbound span - which was the original Sunshine Skyway built in 1954 - was undamaged. Shortly after the southbound span fell the northbound span was checked out by the Florida DOT for structural damage, and on Sunday, 11 May 1980 the northbound span was reopened to two-way traffic with a 45 mph (70 km/h) speed limit and a double yellow no passing line.

In the months following the Sunshine Skyway disaster a major decision had to be made: Either rebuild the southbound span to what it was before the accident or build an entirely new bridge. The reaction was mixed, with Pinellas and Manatee interests wanting to rebuild the southbound span and Hillsbiorough interests - after all, the main shipping channel is part of Hillsborough County as the Sunshine Skyway covers three counties - wanted an entirely new bridge which would be safer. Besides, Interstate 275 was under construction in St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway would be an important part of Interstate 275 as it would connect St. Petersburg with the newly extended Interstate 75 to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

In the end, a newly constructed Sunshine Skyway won. Construction began in 1982 and dedication ceremonies were held in February 1987, followed by its formal opening in April 1987. The original 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span served its purpose carrying two way traffic from right after the accident on 9 May 1980 to when the new Sunshine Skyway opened. Four years later after the new Sunshine Skyway opened, in 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway spans were demolished.

Today the Sunshine Skyway not just carries Interstate 275 over Tampa Bay providing a breathtaking view at 191 feet, it is an icon which represents the purpose of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Compare the Sunshine Skyway in Florida to the Golden Gate Bridge in California; after all, the Golden Gate Bridge represents the purpose of the San Francisco area similar to the Sunshine Skyway even though the bridge designs are different.

Now the Sunshine Skyway has earned its place as one of the major bridges in the United States. Being on a U.S. postage stamp plus its popularity over the years has landed the Sunshine Skyway into a permanent national spotlight.

By the way, the postage stamp is supposed to be released sometime in 2012 according to articles both on Bay News 9 as well as the St. Petersburg Times. The value of the stamp is equivalent to the current 1-lb. Priority Mail rate, which is $5.15.

I'm excited to see the new postage stamp for myself when it's released.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reminder on Etiquette when approaching a Toll Plaza and Other Things

It's the holiday season, and traffic is heavier than usual on the interstates and toll roads of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Unfortunately, I don't like to say this but I have seen a lack of etiquette out there on the roads especially during the holiday season.

For instance, I took a side trip to Tarpon Springs recently when I was trying to turn left from southbound US 19 onto eastbound Keystone Road, which is undergoing a transformation from two lanes to four lanes from US 19 to East Lake Road (CR 611). Unfortunately, the protected left turn signal only let just a few cars through and the lane closures on Keystone Road was causing left turning traffic to block the northbound lanes of extremely busy US 19. As the left turn signal changed from green to red I had no choice but to stop and wait for the next signal to avoid being stranded out in the intersection as well as avoid a ticket for running a red light.

Unfortunately, a gentleman driving a SUV behind me did not like my careful operation of my vehicle in accordance with Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him making threatening gestures at me, including yelling at me apparently telling me to break the law so that he can get to the CVS Pharmacy on the southeast corner of US 19 and Keystone Road. Luckily, the man in the SUV behind me did not do anything more serious as there was a Tarpon Springs Police officer on eastbound Keystone Road waiting to cross US 19.

I cannot understand why the man in the SUV behind me had to be in a hurry for. Was it because he had to pick up a prescription at the CVS Pharmacy in a hurry? (Hey, CVS Pharmacy has late hours). Was it also that the man in the SUV was in a hurry to get Christmas shopping done? These questions I won't know the answer to.

OK. Getting back on topic here.

Let's say you are at a toll plaza and you enter the SunPass only lane by mistake. Or, you enter the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and you do not have a SunPass. What do you do?

First and foremost, do NOT stop or turn around - not only it is illegal, it is dangerous! Simply drive through the SunPass lane - your license plate will be captured by way of a photo image and you will be sent a bill for the toll(s) owed. Instructions on how to pay for the missed toll(s) are on the bill that you would receive.

In fact, here's the perfect stocking stuffer you can get - a SunPass transponder and account for your vehicle. With a SunPass, you can pay reduced toll rates for those with SunPass transponders than those paying with cash. Besides, more and more toll plazas are being converted from the traditional method of toll collection to all electronic toll collection. The SunPass web site has more details including where you can go to pick up your own SunPass transponder as well as how to set up your SunPass account.

Now here are some more road etiquette tips for you motorists out there:

That conversation or business deal on that cell phone or smartphone can wait until you arrive at your destination safely. Same thing goes for texting too.

If you have to be at a place at a certain time (such as getting to your flight at Tampa International Airport or getting to work on time), please leave early. That way, you can arrive at your destination with even a few more minutes to spare!

Take it easy in those crowded mall and shopping center parking lots. In fact, why don't you drop off your party at the front entrance so that you can park the car and then you can join your party inside at a predetermined location after you are settled in. Besides, everyone will be happy campers.

Handicap parking spaces are only for those with a handicap parking placard and are handicapped. If you happen to have someone's handicap parking placard and you are not handicapped, don't abuse the privilege.

Don't speed or tailgate your fellow motorists out there on our highways in an attempt to be somewhere on time. Not only it's against the law and you can get an expensive traffic ticket, you are also throwing money away on gasoline too. Besides, the money you save by not speeding or tailgating you can use it on Christmas shopping!

And one more thing: PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Especially when New Year's Eve rolls around, it's much better to stay overnight - whether it may be a friend's house or a hotel room such as the Hilton Downtown St. Petersburg (even if the rooms are pricey for New Year's Eve) - than spend the New Year in the booking area of the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Jails. Besides, it costs about $20,000 when you factor in fines, court costs, attorney's fees, etc. for a DUI - and we're talking first offense DUI here.

So, enjoy the holiday season and beyond in 2012.

NOTE: Comments are closed for this blog entry.

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Exit 39 northbound photos up - finally!

As you probably know already, improvements were made to the ramps from northbound Interstate 275 to Tampa International Airport as well as Kennedy Blvd., more known as Exit 39. Back in the old days, there were two exits: The exit for Kennedy Blvd., known as Exit 39A and the other exit for Tampa International Airport, known as Exit 39B. Moreover, Exit 39 is also known as FL 60, a cross-Florida state route from Clearwater Beach to Vero Beach.

After I got done taking the photos, organizing them into their proper place (both on my PC and on the web server), making the thumbnails (which are smaller versions of the linked photos so that you can see at a glance before clicking on the photo to see the full size version, very important for our dial-up visitors as while most of us have high speed broadband Internet service, there are still a few that have to rely on dial-up for a number of reasons) and editing the text of the web page still using Microsoft FrontPage, I checked and double-checked everything and I thought I published the revised page.

Not so.

Lately I was checking the Interstate 275 Florida site for anything that needed updating such as old links that need to be fixed and everything else, which is part of the maintenance step in web design. (Pinellas County public school students: Did you attend my web design presentation at a Great American Teach In at your school? You probably know the four steps in web design project management: Analysis, design, development and maintenance!) But something was missing when I looked at the first page of the Tampa version of the Interstate 275 virtual tour, which starts at Exit 39: Updated content reflecting the new ramp construction!

So, I had to do something right away. Everything was done, and I added one minor tidbit on the new ramp regarding motorists who were crossing the grassy strip in order to get from the northbound Interstate 275 mainline to the ramp for Tampa International Airport. In fact, the Florida DOT erected a series of white reflector posts to keep motorists from crossing over. However, these white reflector posts are what I think are a temporary fix; perhaps the engineers over at Florida DOT's District 7 headquarters on McKinley Drive in Tampa should consider a low-level chain link fence as a more permanent solution to keep motorists from crossing the grassy strip. There used to be a low-level chain link fence at Exit 17 (54 Av S) where the off ramp from southbound Interstate 275 and the southbound Interstate 275 mainline are separated for that same reason: Keep motorists from crossing over from the mainline to the ramp and vice versa.

With that one minor edit in mind, I went ahead and began publishing the full size pictures, the thumbnails, and the web page with the changes I made. The finished product is now online if you would like to take a peek.

After all, I have been very busy with my full time job thanks to staffing reductions and less staff having to take on more tasks. But - and - are still my works of art out there on the web. As such, I try very hard to keep everything updated as my time permits.

Still, keep checking back at frequently and often - content changes from time to time as construction projects are completed and new traffic patterns are established. In fact, why not bookmark as a favorite in your browser? That way, you can refer to us frequently and often!

Moving into the Tampa/St. Petersburg area from out of state? Read this!

From time to time while I am out and about on Interstate 275 and elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area I see vehicles with out of state license plates. Most of the time it is a tourist here to enjoy our beautiful weather compared to the brutal weather back home, especially during the winter months. (After all, in this day and age of a shattered economy, we depend on Florida’s number one industry to bring in much needed money and jobs!)

Before I go on further, I have featured this over at as a topic. I am making this as a blog entry here on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog as a public service announcement just to let our newcomers to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area from out of state of their obligations to obtain Florida driver licenses and registrations including auto tags, should they decide to live and work here as opposed to just visiting and taking part in what our great State of Florida has to offer.

What I am talking about specifically are people with out of state license plates that intend on living here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, whether it may be an apartment renter or a homeowner. Worse, I have seen people with out of state license plates that have enrolled their children in our public schools – schools that you, the Florida taxpayer, have to pay for as part of your property taxes.

If you are moving from out of state, what are your obligations as a new resident?

Being a tourist (or a “snowbird” if you’re one of those) is one thing. However, if you are coming to Florida for the purpose of working, buying a home or renting an apartment and calling Florida home or placing children in our public schools, your legal status without you even knowing about it has changed from a resident of your home state to a resident of the State of Florida!

Which leads us to the general residency rule in Florida. That means if you come to Florida with the intention of the following:

Taking a job with an employer in Florida
Placing children in a public school in Florida
Registering to vote
Registering for Homestead Exemption
Declaring Florida residency through filing a certificate of domicile with the Clerk of the Court

Florida law requires you to convert your out of state registration (license plates) and drivers license to a Florida registration and a Florida drivers license within ten (30) days of the day you performed any of the act(s) mentioned above that made you a Florida resident.

OK, I need to convert my out of state drivers license to a Florida drivers license. How do I do this?

The best way to get your Florida drivers license is to go to a Florida drivers license office, located strategically throughout the state. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a website where you can locate the drivers license office near you. In most cases all you need to do is to pass a vision test in order to convert your out of state license to a Florida license.

In addition, the Tax Collector's office (this is where you will get your license plates for your car) also performs drivers license related transactions, but be prepared to pay a small convenience fee. (From what I understand the function of driver license issuance will become the responsibility of the county Tax Collector as the State of Florida is closing the state-operated driver license offices; whether the convenience fee for getting your driver license at the Tax Collector after the state-operated driver license offices are closed will be abolished I am not sure yet).

Bringing the proper documentation to the driver license office is highly encouraged. In fact, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a specialty web site set up called that shows you what documentation you need.

But you are not done yet! If you own a vehicle with out of state license plates please read on.

I don't like to part with my out of state tag but I have to now that I am a Florida resident. How do I accomplish this?

To get your Florida plates go to your county's Tax Collector office. In Florida the Tax Collector of your Florida county also acts as an authorized agency for the issuance of vehicle registration, titling and license plates. Again, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a website where you can locate your county's tax collector office near you.

In the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, the Pinellas and Hillsborough Tax Collectors have informative web sites where you can find the office close to you. The Pinellas County Tax Collector’s web site is while the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s web site is Just be sure you go to the right Tax Collector office (that means if you live in St. Petersburg, you will deal with the Pinellas County Tax Collector, not Hillsborough).

Bring the following with you to the tax collector's office when you go for your Florida tags: Your Florida drivers license (very important; if you are going to the tax collector office you can accomplish both in the same visit), your out of state title, your out of state registration and proof of insurance. Speaking of proof of insurance, you will need to visit an agent of your insurance company to transfer your auto insurance to meet Florida’s insurance requirements; do this before you visit the Tax Collector for your registration to avoid disappointment.

It is a fact: If you get into an accident in Florida while you are covered by your out of state auto insurance policy (and you still have your out of state plates on your vehicle), if your insurer finds out that you are living in Florida as opposed to just visiting Florida then your insurer will do everything to deny your claim. Make no mistake; in order to fight any form of insurance fraud insurers have every reasonable right to investigate, especially if something questionable comes about when you file a claim.

However, nine times out of ten you may not have the title because you financed your vehicle when you bought it in the first place. You may either want to notify your out of state bank or finance company and they should be able to transfer the title to a Florida title for you; another alternative would be to refinance your vehicle with a bank or credit union (a credit union is preferred) in Florida and that should also transfer the title from your former state of residence to Florida for you as well. When you go to register your vehicle, let the tag/title clerk in the tax collector's office know and your vehicle registration should be a snap.

NOTE: Your out of state bank, finance company or credit union may charge you a small fee to transfer your out of state title to a Florida title. The Florida title will remain with your lienholder until it is released, mainly by paying off the loan on your vehicle.

If you have a personalized license plate from out of state that you would like to use in Florida (in other words, have the same personalization on your Florida plate) tell the tag/title clerk and a computer check will be done to see if you can use your same personalization on your Florida plate.

Additionally, Florida has a great smorgasbord of specialty license plates you can choose from if you're so inclined; the Pinellas County Tax Collector has a page on their website that shows you the many specialty license plates out there.

Now there are exceptions to the Florida general residency rule:

Florida Statutes provide for exceptions to the residency rule when it comes to obtaining Florida license plates and Florida drivers licenses. The most common exception is our brave men and women serving America in the military and are stationed in Florida pursuant to military orders, thanks to federal laws in place that forbid states from requiring military service members to obtain driver licenses and registrations upon arrival such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (50 USC 571), which was originally known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act enacted in 1940.

Active duty military from out of state do not have to obtain Florida license plates nor obtain a Florida drivers license while stationed in Florida. Neither does the immediate family of the service member as well. But be careful! Performing any of the acts listed below can require you or your family to obtain a Florida drivers license and/or Florida plates:

The service member accepts a second civilian job
The service member purchases a home in Florida and claims Homestead Exemption
The service member registers to vote in Florida
Any of the service member's family gets a job

Placement of a service member’s child in Florida public schools also does not require changing permanent residency to Florida as far as driver licenses and registration are concerned. However, school officials will want to see proof that you are in the military when you enroll your children (and to avoid the $50 tuition charge).

Another exception is college students from out of state attending any of Florida's universities or community colleges, such as the University of South Florida or Hillsborough Community College. College students from out of state do not have to obtain Florida license plates nor obtain a Florida drivers license incidental to attending college. (After all, out of state students have to pay out of state tuition!) But again, be careful as performing any of the acts listed below may require you to obtain a Florida drivers license and/or Florida plates:

The student pays in-state tuition for classes
The student accepts a job while going to school
The student places his or her children in Florida public schools (the K-12 kind, that is)
The student purchases a home in Florida and claims Homestead Exemption
The student registers to vote in Florida

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who continue to keep or insist on keeping their out of state license plates and driver license even though they now reside in Florida by virtue of placing their children in public school and/or accepting employment in Florida. Here in the Gandy area of St. Petersburg, this is getting to be an epidemic: I have seen a substantial number of out of state vehicles from states such as Illinois and Ohio (as examples) that are working here. (In fact, people from out of state living here in Florida more than likely have friends or relatives from their home state renew their vehicle registration on their behalf and send the renewal sticker or license plate to them, as most state laws forbid mailing a registration renewal out of state). People that move from out of state and do not transfer their driver license and registration to Florida when they are supposed to are costing the taxpayers of the State of Florida millions of dollars – money that is desperately needed due to dwindling tax revenue as a result of the recent real estate crisis.

Easy explanation: Needed widening improvements on Interstate 275 have to be put on hold due to lack of funding. As there is no money to proceed with the construction phase, gridlocks especially during the morning and evening commute get worse.

In fact, there used to be a tax that had to be paid by every out of state resident moving to Florida upon changing the vehicle registration from out of state that was declared unconstitutional by the courts. With this tax being unpopular, it got so bad that law enforcement – with the permission of the private company – was roaming private company parking lots looking for out of state plates. Despite the unconstitutionality of the tax, I am not sure if law enforcement continues to do this today or not.

So, if I continue to drive around with my out of state plates what can happen to me here in Florida?

First of all, you can be charged with violation of Florida State Statute 320.38 (related to vehicle registrations including license plates) and 322.031 (related to driver's licenses). This can happen if an officer stops you for a traffic violation and (for instance) sees you with a Tampa Bay area private company parking hang tag and your out of state license plates. These two offenses are not traffic infractions - it's a criminal misdemeanor offense! That means you will have to go to court and the possibility of a conviction on your criminal record, not to mention the embarrassment to your employer among other things.

You can also be charged with perjury (and be liable for back property taxes) if you are claiming homestead exemption on property you own in Florida. You can also be charged with perjury if you placed children in public school and told the school officials that you were a resident (after all, nonresidents who place their children in Florida public schools are subject to a $50 tuition fee). Same thing goes for college students from out of state who try to claim in-state tuition. Perjury is a very serious matter - it's a criminal third degree felony! (See Florida State Statute 92.525).

The bottom line is this: If you like visiting Florida, that’s great and we're glad to have you. However, if you decide to live, work, and/or put your children in our public schools and you are not in the military, be a good sport and pay Florida taxes such as vehicle registration – not the taxes from your home state.

Easiest explanation to the above paragraph: If you have (as an example) Illinois plates on your car and you live in one of the apartment complexes in the Gandy area of St. Petersburg and you are employed, you no longer need to be making contributions to the State of Illinois in the form of vehicle registration fees – instead, you need to be making contributions to the State of Florida in the form of vehicle registration fees (and these fees are one important source of revenue if we Floridians want better roads too).

With the reduced revenue going into the State of Florida’s coffers, our legislators in Tallahassee need to go back and look at the law that requires out of state residents intending to make Florida their home to get Florida driver’s licenses and registrations within 30 days. Perhaps increased enforcement is the key here, as enforcement of these laws have been lax for many years.

So, if you are visiting our great state we welcome you and we're glad to have you. However, if you are coming to our state (and our area) for the purpose of living here, be a good sport and pay Florida taxes such as obtaining a Florida driver’s license and obtaining Florida license plates for your vehicle – not to your former home state.

NOTE: Comments are closed for this blog entry.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reminder on Commenting Guidelines

I recently posted a set of community guidelines for when you post a comment to any of my blog entries that you see here on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog. The guidelines are available on at the blog introduction page or you can click here to go straight to the community guidelines (links to a PDF document).

Here are the highlights of the community guidelines for posting a comment on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog:

Stay on the blog topic.
Be respectful of others out there.
Don’t hate or express hatred.
Don’t use language that you wouldn’t use with your parents (or your teachers, your boss or whatever).
No commercial messages of any kind.
Don’t infringe on the publicity and privacy rights of others.
Don’t submit personal information in your comment.

Personal information includes, but is not limited to, home addresses, telephone numbers, automobile tag numbers, and personal identifying numbers such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers.

Please, enjoy reading my blogs and commenting on my blogs but be mindful of the above community guidelines. If everyone abides by the above guidelines for commenting on my blogs, that will assist me in keeping the Interstate 275 Florida Blog family friendly for all.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Here a Ramp, There a Ramp...

I know, it’s been a while since I posted here on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog. My days have been so busy at the office; with the staffing reductions that have taken place at where I work I have been taking on more and more stuff. When 5 o’clock rolls around after a very busy day you just want to pick up dinner, bring it home, and stretch out on the easy chair while you watch your big screen TV.

Enough of that for now. Lately there were two things taking place recently as far as Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area is concerned, so let’s get right down to business.

First, a new ramp has opened at Interstate 275’s northern terminus. Actually, it’s the ramp to FL 56 near the Pasco County town of Wesley Chapel that has been recently extended to accommodate traffic from not only northbound Interstate 275 the new ramp also accommodates traffic from northbound Interstate 75 as well.

So, how do you exit at FL 56 if you are coming from northbound Interstate 275 or 75? It’s easy: Just watch for the newly installed overhead signage for FL 56 and be prepared to be in your lane for the exit. If you are coming from northbound Interstate 275 you will use a dedicated flyover overpass going over Interstate 75 which is the off ramp to FL 56.

The purpose of lengthening the exit ramp at FL 56 is to separate traffic headed for the many residential developments in the area while at the same time keep traffic intended to transition from northbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 moving at freeway speed. It also eliminates a dangerous weaving movement that used to exist when you transitioned onto Interstate 75 north from Interstate 275 and you had the FL 56 exit; remember when you had to do the “Hail Mary Pass” to get over to the next lane if you wanted to go north on Interstate 75 from Interstate 275 to avoid the exit only lane of FL 56?

While we’re on the subject of FL 56, the new exit ramp from northbound Interstate 275 and 75 carries Interstate 75’s exit number, Exit 275. To me, this is confusing to motorists as visitors from out of town coming to the Tampa Bay area to visit get the exit number confused for the Interstate route number that takes motorists into Tampa as well as St. Petersburg. For instance, a first time visitor to the Tampa Bay area arriving by motor vehicle will use Interstate 75 headed south. Along the way, mileage signs count the distance to the exit for Interstate 275.

Once the first time visitor passes the rest area in Wesley Chapel the visitor sees signage for Exit 275, which in reality is FL 56. The visitor exits at this exit, thinking that it is Interstate 275 and the visitor gets lost when he or she finds out that FL 56 is not the way to St. Petersburg – instead, the road merges into FL 54 to its western terminus at US 19 south of New Port Richey.

The exit for Interstate 275 south from Interstate 75 south is actually Exit 274. The only signage for the real Interstate 275 is a small trailblazer-type sign mounted on the right side of Interstate 75 south before approaching FL 56. Right after the FL 56 exit comes a series of large overhead guide signs for southbound Interstate 275 with an Exit 274 tab mounted on the upper right hand corner above the sign.

The Florida DOT needs to fix this confusing mess. As Florida’s interstate highway exits are now based on the mile marker based numbering system, I have driven by there and seen a 275 mile marker sign in the area where the interchange for Interstates 75 and 275 are located. According to generally adopted principles for mile marker based exit numbering, the interchange for Interstates 75 and 275 should have the designation of being Exit 275 and the interchange for FL 56 at Interstate 75 should have the designation of being Exit 276. I have also seen a 276 mile marker sign in the vicinity of the FL 56 interchange as well. Further north on Interstate 75, the next exit after the rest area is Exit 279, Pasco County Road 54 and Temporary FL 54.

OK. Let’s head south on Interstate 275 through Tampa and over the Howard Frankland Bridge into St. Petersburg so that I can tell you about another ramp; this time, the ramp at 38 Av N (Exit 25) from southbound Interstate 275. Being a dedicated exit only ramp, it has been the subject of a recent story by Bay News 9’s Real Time Traffic reporter Chuck Henson about drivers who use the exit only lane as a passing lane, cutting back over into the right through lane just before the 38 Av N exit. After seeing how this exit ramp is set up for myself, this ramp is an accident waiting to happen.

Just recently the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) began an enforcement program on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg with an emphasis on speeders, aggressive drivers and seat belt violators. The operation is called Saving A Life Through Enforcement, or SALTE. According to the Bay News 9 article FHP recently issued 34 tickets to motorists on a small stretch of Interstate 275 between 38 Av N (Exit 25) and 54 Av N (Exit 26); the majority of these tickets were for motorists caught crossing what traffic engineers call the “theoretical gore”, the paved space where a ramp diverges from the mainline and is marked by heavy duty striping to discourage exiting motorists from jumping back onto the mainline at the last minute causing a potential accident.

How did this ramp configuration on southbound Interstate 275 at 38 Av N came to fruition? Well, here is a history which leads up to the present ramp configuration in place.

When this section of Interstate 275 opened in 1974, 38 Av N was at one time designated as a temporary end as construction progressed southward through St. Petersburg. The right lane then was a through lane with an exit ramp onto 38 Av N from southbound Interstate 275. Meanwhile, the left lane on the Interstate 275 mainline ended and merged into the middle lane which marked the transition from a middle lane to a left lane; signage was erected in the median stating that the left lane was ending in 1,000 and 500 feet respectively. That meant dangerous merges from an ending lane into a through lane.

During the 1989 sign replacement project the left lane was converted from an ending left lane to a through left lane. At the same time the right through lane was converted into a dedicated exit only lane for 38 Av N and overhead signage was installed reflecting the fact that the lane is now a dedicated exit lane rather than a through lane.

Perhaps the Florida DOT can make some improvements at the ramp to 38 Av N from southbound Interstate 275:

1. Remove the concrete pavement in what used to be the through right lane immediately beyond the entrance to the ramp to 38 Av N from southbound Interstate 275. This would put more meaning into the words “Exit Only” on overhead signage in black letters on a yellow background.

2. Remove the asphalt pavement that is now the through left lane and replace it with concrete, matching it up with the rest of the concrete pavement in the interchange area.

3. Remove the second entrance ramp onto Interstate 275 from 54 Av N (the ramp that takes traffic from eastbound 54 Av N to southbound Interstate 275). Have all traffic entering Interstate 275 southbound from 54 Av N use the first entrance ramp (that’s the circular entrance ramp that now takes traffic from westbound 54 Av N onto southbound Interstate 275). This could help reduce another “Hail Mary Merge” movement as motorists would have more time to transition onto or off of southbound Interstate 275 right after going under the 54 Av N underpass.

Problem solved!

With FHP’s enforcement of traffic laws on the southbound stretch of Interstate 275 between 54 Av N and 38 Av N here’s a tip on what to do if in the event you either miss your exit or end up exiting at an exit you did not intend to use:

If you miss your exit:

Go on to the next exit. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU GO INTO THE EMERGENCY LANE AND BACK UP YOUR VEHICLE! You may not cross the paved gap that separates the beginning of the ramp from the mainline; doing so can result in a traffic stop from FHP which can result in a ticket being issued. Same thing goes for backing up under any circumstances!

If you are caught in an Exit Only lane or exit onto a road that you did not intend to use:

Do not attempt to make a correction at the last minute. THIS CAN RESULT IN AN ACCIDENT! Instead, follow the ramp to the intersection; you should be able to go straight across the road when you have the green light depending on how the intersection is set up. If by any chance you cannot go straight through to reenter Interstate 275 you can turn left to reverse direction, go back to the previous exit and turn around again.

If you have exited onto another interstate highway such as Interstates 375 and 175 in St. Petersburg or Interstate 4 in Tampa, go to the first exit. There you can legally turn around and return to Interstate 275 in the direction you were going.

Again, do not cross the paved gap that separates the beginning of the ramp from the mainline. If an FHP trooper sees you doing this you can be liable for a traffic stop which can result in a ticket for a moving violation. The fines are steep – it can be as much as your car loan payment! (Try explaining this to your credit union when you have to skip a car loan payment due to a hefty traffic ticket; skip too many payments and your car is repossessed which is much easier to do than a mortgage foreclosure!)

As I wrote in a comment to the Bay News 9 article, what is wrong with leaving earlier so that you can arrive at your destination on time? If we did that then there would be no need to be in a hurry to get to work on time. Unfortunately, our Tampa Bay area mass transit system is so inept that reliance on a car to commute to and from work is mandatory; for that reason this is why companies looking to relocate in Florida do not want to relocate to the Tampa Bay metropolitan area due to extremely reduced commuting to work choices other than carpooling. I can go on forever regarding the lack of reliable mass transit in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, but I’ll save it for another topic.

With the new exit ramp at FL 56 and the exit ramp rigmarole at 38 Av N (Exit 25), please feel free to share your commute stories here. Just one favor I would like to ask, and that is to keep the comments clean; when you post your comment it will not show up until I moderate it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The sun sets on the Sunshine Skyway - the fishing piers, that is

I know, it's been a while since I posted here on the Interstate 275 Florida blog. But I recently found something interesting related to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge according to this Bay News 9 article, specifically the fishing piers on either side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Let me give you some historical factoid on how the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge was transformed into fishing piers. In 1987 the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we know it today was opened to traffic, replacing a twin cantilever span built in 1954 and 1971. The 1971 span as we know was damaged on 9 May 1980 when the Summit Venture collided with an anchor pier on the main span immediately south of the main channel pier which resulted in the loss of 35 lives, including several people on a Greyhound bus bound for Miami.

Four years later after the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened to traffic, in 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge - in particular, the main high level cantilever spans - was demolished. However, a good part of the old spans were kept for use as a fishing pier which served their purpose for many years more.

Unfortunately, the remnants of what used to be the 1954 northbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway being used as a fishing pier began showing serious deterioration. A consulting engineer hired by the Florida DOT took a look and the deterioration was so serious that the span merited permanent closure to the public and demolition.

So, it is what is left of the 1954 northbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway - which was used as a fishing pier - that is being demolished. The remnants of the 1971 southbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway is still in use as a fishing pier.

It's sad to see a piece of Tampa Bay area memorabilia fall to the wrecker's ball. But add in the cost of extended upkeep and it can get quite expensive. On a side note, it's not just the old 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span that is being demolished - the old 1956 westbound span of the Gandy Bridge, used for many years as the Friendship Trail, has been closed due to serious deterioration and I believe it is slated for demolition. I can go on forever about the Friendship Trail, but I'll save it for another topic.

Here's a website for more information about the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers - To get there, there are two fishing piers, one on the north end and the other on the south end. To get to the north end fishing pier, simply exit Interstate 275 at the north rest area and follow the signs to the fishing pier. To get to the south end fishing pier, simply exit Interstate 275 at the south rest area and follow the signs which will lead you on a road that takes you over a small bridge that parallels the Interstate 275 mainline and the entrance gate to the south fishing pier will be straight ahead.

Admission prices are as follows, according to the website:

$4.00 for your vehicle, plus $4.00 for each adult or $2.00 for each child 6 to 11 years old. Children 5 and under are admitted free. This allows you access for 24 hours to either fishing pier. If you want just to sightsee, a one-hour pass, valid from sunrise to sunset, is available for $3.00.

It makes for a great day trip!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another sad day on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Writing a blog entry like this is a rare occurrence here at the Interstate 275 Blog. However, I was saddened when I came across this article in today's St. Petersburg Times that involved someone who jumped from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It turned out to be the son of former St. Petersburg College President Dr. Carl Kuttler Jr., Carl Kuttler III.

What makes it more saddening is that it took place on a religious holiday before Easter, which is Good Friday. According to the St. Petersburg Times article, Dr. Kuttler's son contacted Bay News 9's Al Ruechel who, in turn, alerted authorities. At least Bay News 9 did everything they could as it tried to stop a suicide that was about to take place on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Being a St. Petersburg College alumnus (Class of 1987, back when it was called St. Petersburg Junior College), I remember the night when I walked the stage at the graduation ceremony held at the Bayfront Center in downtown St. Petersburg. As I walked the stage, I remember the moment I shook Dr. Kuttler's hand and received my associate's degree. After all, receiving my degree was one of my most important achievements setting the stage for what would be my eventual employment by the City of St. Petersburg four months later.

My condolences go out to Dr. Kuttler and his family in this utmost hour of sorrow. And a word of gratitude goes out to Al Ruechel at Bay News 9 for trying to stop a serious situation out there on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Because of the events that transpired on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge involving a suicide, I am reprinting part of a blog entry that I had here at the Interstate 275 Blog on this subject. If you or a loved one you know is in crisis, help is out there.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help out there.

If you or someone you know is going through a crisis situation, here in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area dial 211 for information and referral to someone who can help. If you reside elsewhere, check your local telephone directory for the crisis intervention number in your area. However, in an extreme emergency you can always dial 911. Another resource would be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached toll free at 1 (800) 273-TALK 24/7/365.

For our Spanish speaking visitors: Para ayuda llame al 1 (888) 628-9454.

On the Sunshine Skyway Bridge there are a set of crisis counseling telephones mounted on the high level main span, three on the southbound lanes and three on the northbound lanes. Below these phones is a sign written in English and in Spanish that reads: "There is hope - make the call". These phones connect the caller to The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay in Tampa and the counselor answering the phone can immediately pinpoint where the caller is located so that a Florida Highway Patrol trooper can be dispatched to the caller's location on the Sunshine Skyway. After all, time is very crucial in an emergency situation.

After all, help is out there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Interstate 175: A repeat of Interstate 375?

Last week I came across this interesting article from Bay News 9's traffic reporter Chuck Henson: Ramp not just slippery - but dangerous - when wet.

What we're talking about is the ramp from southbound Interstate 275 onto eastbound Interstate 175 (Exit 22) in downtown St. Petersburg. This ramp has the same design characteristics as its partner to the north at Exit 23: Left hand exit with a steep curve to the left. However, there is a difference in that traffic using this ramp goes under - rather than over - the northbound lanes of Interstate 275.

Unlike Exit 23A (the ramp from southbound Interstate 275 to eastbound Interstate 375), the only warning signage is the word "Left" in black letters on a yellow background above the exit number tabs as well as advisory signage for the ramp speed of 50 mph mounted on the left side of the southbound lanes at the point of exit. To me, this is an accident waiting to happen.

Realize that the parking lots for Tropicana Field - home of the Tampa Bay Rays - are what's below you when you exit onto Interstate 175 from southbound Interstate 275 or pass through on the Interstate 275 mainline. Just add a rain slick day and a Rays sellout game with a popular team (such as the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox) and you have a potential for an Interstate 375-like accident.

When you exit onto eastbound Interstate 175 from southbound Interstate 275, you will notice that the ramp is banked a little more sharply as it makes its curve towards the east. On the other hand, the Interstate 375 ramp is not as banked to the left. Unfortunately, people in a hurry to be somewhere still continue their 65 mph or greater pace on the Interstate 275 mainline until it's almost too late.

The concrete deck on the Interstate 175 ramp from southbound Interstate 275 is the same concrete deck when the highway was built in 1977-78. Unfortunately, the concrete deck is not grooved to assist in traction during inclement weather. Additionally, the Interstate 175 ramp from southbound Interstate 275 also has a tendency to flood on the left lane during a severe rain event; there are drains that are supposed to carry the rain water from the ramp into the drainage system but, according to the Bay News 9 article, the ramp area where it floods does not drain.

Now what should be done?

First, get rid of that pesky advisory 50 mph sign mounted on the left side of the ramp and replace it with two Speed Limit 50 regulatory signs plus the speed reduction warning sign before the ramp, just like the setup at Interstate 375. This will get a lot of people to slow down for the ramp, and it will give the Florida Highway Patrol the authority it needs to issue tickets to those who drive way too fast for the ramp. Interstate 175 has a speed limit of 50 mph going eastbound and the speed limit drops to 40 mph at the 6 St S exit prior to Interstate 175's end at 4 St S.

Second, fix the poor drainage issue on the part of the ramp where it floods in the left lane. The ramp drains are there, but what's going on as far as maintenance is concerned?

Now for the long term...

The ramps for both Interstate 175 and Interstate 375 from southbound Interstate 275 are indeed haphazardly designed when the highway was built in the mid- to late 1970's. Unfortunately the engineers to be at the Florida DOT did not take into account the traffic volume nor the fact that we have a Major League Baseball team playing at Tropicana Field, which for all purposes and intents will be staying until the lease expires in 2027. (As for the Rays staying at Tropicana Field, that's for another topic over at the Edward Ringwald Blog).

What should be done is a collector-distributor ramp should be built from the right lanes which collects traffic from Interstate 275 southbound and distributes traffic into downtown St. Petersburg onto 5 Av N, Interstate 375 and of course Interstate 175. Just like the new collector-distributor ramp that was recently built in Tampa at the exit to Tampa International Airport from northbound Interstate 275 (Exit 39), it would allow traffic headed to downtown St. Petersburg from southbound Interstate 275 to exit at one point and decide how one wants to go into downtown St. Petersburg. Of course traffic headed to Treasure Island would definitely use the 5 Av N exit to reach Central Avenue to head west towards the beaches.

The new collector-distributor ramp would more than likely be a high level ramp that would take motorists over the Interstate 275 mainline to reach Interstates 375 or 175. However, the ramp to 5 Av N would transition from the exit to the existing at grade intersection that currently exists.

So, is it going to take a tragic accident to happen on the Interstate 175 ramp from southbound Interstate 275 - just like what happened on the Interstate 375 ramp - before the Florida DOT gets around to fixing the ramp's safety issues? You decide.

After all, not only Interstate 175 takes you to downtown St. Petersburg, it also takes you to several important downtown St. Petersburg landmarks including the Mahaffey Theater, the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg Campus and two well known and respected St. Petersburg hospitals: Bayfront Medical Center and the new All Children's Hospital which has recently joined forces with Baltimore based John Hopkins Healthcare.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Structurally Deficient Howard Frankland Bridge?

Here's an interesting story from Bay News 9 I found recently: The Howard Frankland Bridge being labeled structurally deficient.

What the article is talking about is today's northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge, which was built and opened to traffic in 1960. Until 1991, this was the bridge that carried four lanes of Interstate 275 traffic dating back to its Interstate 4 heydays when that interstate highway went west to St. Petersburg terminating at Ulmerton Road and Martin Luther King Street North (today's Interstate 275 Exit 31). The traffic loads on this bridge increased significantly to the point where the Florida DOT decided to widen the Howard Frankland including its approaches from four to eight lanes in each direction.

Six years earlier, the original northbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1954. Bridge building methods of the era were a lot different in that these bridges were built so low to the water line. Both bridges stood the test of time for so many years.

Even with rehabilitation efforts done on the northbound span of the Howard Frankland after the new 1991 southbound span opened, unfortunately the bridge is showing its age. By comparison, the 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span was torn down in 1991 and the north and south sections were preserved as fishing piers; just recently the old northbound span used as a fishing pier had to be closed due to serious structural deficiency.

And we can't forget the westbound span of the Gandy Bridge which was built four years earlier before the Howard Frankland in 1956. Once the new westbound span of the Gandy Bridge was built in 1997 the 1956 westbound Gandy Bridge was scheduled for demolition but was saved and reused as a pedestrian trail called the Friendship Trail. Like the 1954 Sunshine Skyway, the 1956 Gandy Bridge had to be closed to pedestrian traffic due to serious structural deficiency and from what I understand the Friendship Trail is scheduled for demolition sometime in the not too distant future.

Now with two 1950's era bridges closed, the 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span and the 1956 Gandy westbound span, there is a possibility despite the story on Bay News 9 that the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge could be seriously structurally deficient to warrant closure. Being a part of Interstate 275 carrying commuters between St. Petersburg and Tampa and vice versa, a closure of the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge northbound span can have potential ramifications as far as traffic is concerned.

Presently there is a wide gap between the 1960 and 1991 Howard Frankland spans. Perhaps now is a good time to seriously consider the construction of a commuter rail line connecting St. Petersburg with Tampa using the center median of Interstate 275. I feel that this commuter rail line - complemented with the existing CSX track through St. Petersburg, Clearwater and northern Pinellas County as well as Tampa - could somehow be a potential lifesaver if in the event of a serious structural deficiency of the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge requiring closure.

Of course the 1991 Howard Frankland Bridge would have to be reconfigured to four lanes, but the Gandy Bridge and the Courtney Campell Causeway would have to pick up the increased traffic flow. However, the potential for gridlock would be compounded by the temporary loss of a Tampa Bay crossing; just recently I was headed home on the westbound span of the Gandy Bridge when I noticed heavy gridlock on the eastbound span coming into Tampa.

In other words, if the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge were to be declared seriously structurally deficient to require closure, the traffic impacts in the Tampa Bay region would be severe. This would be compounded by the lack of rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay region, as buses would be subjected to the same delays. The recent Florida DOT report should serve as a wake up call for our area public officials to reconsider rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay area. This is not the high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando that was thrown away on purpose courtesy of Florida's 45th governor, but something that would really benefit the Tampa Bay region as a whole.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reminder regarding new Interstate 275 Florida Blog Address

Just a quick reminder about our blog address:

To get to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, simply type this URL into your browser's address bar: That's all there is to it! That URL will bring you right here. Or, you can click on the link to this blog right from the blog introduction page at

Just another way I make things easier here at After all, I can't tame the morning or evening commute out there on Interstate 275 as far as the Tampa Bay metropolitan area is concerned - but I can make things a lot easier for you here at the website.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you have been using the domain address to get to the Interstate 275 Florida blog, you will want to update your bookmark if you got the Interstate 275 Florida Blog bookmarked in your favorites as the domain will no longer exist.

So remember, will bring you here!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow ... in Florida?

While watching Bay News 9 and chief meteorologist Mike Clay giving the weather almanac for Wednesday, 19 January 2011 something rang a bell in my mind: On 19 January 1977 snow fell in Florida with snowflakes being seen as far south as Homestead.

That reminded me of an event that took place on Interstate 275 on that same date: The Howard Frankland Bridge was closed due to ice. Back in those days the Howard Frankland was just a single four-lane span and commuting between St. Petersburg and Tampa was a challenge. We only had three TV stations back then - WFLA Channel 8 (which has been the Tampa Bay area's NBC affiliate since 1955), WTSP Channel 10 (which was an ABC affiliate, now a CBS affiliate) and WTVT Channel 13 (which was a CBS affiliate, now a Fox Owned and Operated station) - that we could get our news from but only certain times of the day, compared to today where you could flip on Bay News 9 (if you're a Bright House Networks subscriber), get your weather and traffic, and be on your way.

However, Florida's roads and bridges were not designed for travel during periods of icy weather unlike other states, where winter weather is the norm and roads have to be deiced. On a bridge, the hazard from ice is much greater as you are on a concrete deck and there is no room for error; this was the case with the original Howard Frankland Bridge as there were no emergency shoulders on the original bridge prior to its refurbishment as the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in 1992, a year after the new 1991 southbound lanes opened.

Back on that day in January 1977 when it snowed in Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol did not want to take any chances with motorists on a narrow, 4-lane bridge crossing Tampa Bay which was known for a lot of accidents. As such, the Howard Frankland was closed to traffic making commuting between St. Petersburg and Tampa very difficult.

Now I would like to find out where you were in the Tampa Bay area on 19 January 1977 when it snowed in Florida and you had to either find another way to St. Petersburg or Tampa crossing Tampa Bay or you had to stay home because the Howard Frankland Bridge was closed due to ice. I do remember the memories very well, and that weather almanac on Bay News 9 jogged my memory.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A new year - and more Interstate 275 construction!

Happy new year from! By now the holidays have winded down and things have returned to normal, including the morning and evening commutes out there on Interstate 275.

With the new year comes new construction. Whoa! New construction on Interstate 275? Yes, it's a fact of life and if you want your commute to be a little quicker, improvements have to be done.

For the most part, Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area is generally six lanes with some pockets of four lane sections. However, there are significant four lane sections of Interstate 275, one south of Pinellas Point Drive South (Exit 16) to the southern terminus at Interstate 75 near Ellenton including the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the other four lane section north of Bearss Avenue (Exit 53) to the northern terminus at Interstate 75 near Wesley Chapel.

Fortunately, the four lane section on Interstate 275 north of Exit 53 is going to get a makeover, according to this Bay News 9 article by Chuck Henson as well as this article over at Tampa Bay Interstates, the Florida DOT's official source of Tampa Bay area interstate highway construction.

The four lane section north of Exit 53 will be upgraded to six lanes, with the new lanes being built in the median according to Tampa Bay Interstates. This will transform Interstate 275 from Exit 53 to Interstate 75 from a rural four lane highway to an urban six lane highway, which is desperately needed due to the rapid growth in the area surrounding Wesley Chapel.

The end result will be Interstate 275 being a continuous six lane highway from Interstate 75 south through Tampa and St. Petersburg, with pockets of four lane highway at the interchange with Interstate 4 (Exit 45B) as well as another brief segment at FL 60 (Exit 39). This will mean better capacity for the morning and evening commutes.

According to Tampa Bay Interstates, construction on this segment is supposed to begin on 6 January 2011 and wrap up sometime in Fall 2012. As with any construction, it is going to mean construction barricades, enhanced Florida Highway Patrol presence and reduced speed limits, so plan ahead. Remember, speeding fines are doubled in construction zones!

While we're on this particular Interstate 275 segment, you should know that this used to be the original Interstate 75 back in the days when the highway ended in Tampa. It was originally constructed in 1964, ending just south of Bearss Avenue (which is today's Interstate 275 Exit 53) leaving a gap in northern Tampa from Bearss Avenue to Interstate 4. The gap was closed in 1967 when Interstate 275 was opened providing for an uninterrupted continuous interstate highway from Tampa to Atlanta.

There is one overpass between Bearss Avenue and Interstate 75, and that is Livingston Road. This overpass was built as part of the original 1964 construction and over the years it has seen plenty of use. What puzzles me is due to the rapid growth in the surrounding area, would the Florida DOT consider building an interchange at Livingston Road to serve the residents of the surrounding area as well as make Interstate 275 easier to access rather than having to go to Bearss Avenue?

Converting Livingston Road from an overpass to a full fledged interchange is not easy. As Interstate 275 is part of the Interstate Highway System, any modifications made including new interchanges not only have to be approved by the Florida DOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States DOT has to give their blessing before any interchange additions and/or modifications can be done. Engineering studies have to be done and justifications made to meet and/or exceed federal and Florida requirements. After all, the concept of the Interstate Highway System is that you cannot access any interstate highway - including Interstate 275 - at any location you desire; you can access Interstate 275 only at a designated interchange.

I am not sure what the Florida DOT will do regarding Livingston Road as it crosses Interstate 275. I imagine the Florida DOT will leave the overpass in place for the time being, at least until it is decided to upgrade Livingston Road from an overpass to a full fledged interchange. Moreover, I imagine that if Livingston Road is indeed upgraded, the overpass would more than likely be rebuilt to today's standards.