Friday, August 17, 2012

The Republican National Convention is coming!

We're a little more than a week before the 2012 Republican National Convention that is taking place over at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa. While the convention is expected to provide a boost for our region's economy, it is expected to bring a mess as far as getting around the Tampa/St. Petersburg area the week of the convention is concerned.

First, here is the press release that has been issued by the United States Secret Service on the security restrictions and transportation plan during convention week, which is from 26 August 2012 to 30 August 2012. The press release covers a great deal of information you will need to know as far as getting around the Tampa/St. Petersburg area is concerned. As far as getting around on our region's major highways including Interstate 275, I am going to touch on the highlights of the security restrictions that will be in place.

While the bulk of the convention will take place over at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, there will be a reception party being held on Sunday, 26 August 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Again, this will mean security related closures and detours.

St. Petersburg:

If you are going to the Rays game at Tropicana Field on Saturday, 25 August 2012 against the Oakland A's, please be aware that you will not be allowed to park on the street that day due to the security restrictions in place. If you park on Tropicana Field property for the game, be advised that you will have 90 minutes after the last pitch is thrown to remove your vehicle from the Tropicana Field parking lot. As such, there is a special game time of 1:10 PM rather than the usual 7:10 PM game time which is the standard on Saturday games.

Interstate 175 - the southern feeder into downtown St. Petersburg - will be closed to all traffic the afternoon of 26 August 2012 due to the Republican National Convention reception party taking place. If you need to access downtown St. Petersburg during that time, use Interstate 375, the northern feeder into downtown St. Petersburg.

If you need to get to Bayfront Medical Center or All Children's Hospital during the time Interstate 175 is closed, the recommended route is Interstate 375 to 4 St N, then south on 4 St N (crossing Central Avenue) to 6 Av S. Right on 6 Av S to 6 St S; Bayfront will be on your left as you cross 6 St S while All Children's will be on your right before you get to 6 St S.


Tampa International Airport will be open during convention week. If you are headed out of town that week and you're flying out of TIA, be sure to check with your airline for any information that may affect your flight. Expect crowds as you pass through the terminal.

Interstate 275 as it passes by downtown Tampa at the Ashley Street exit (Exit 44) will be open. Expect delays in this area during convention week.

The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway will be closed between Willow Avenue and 50th Street (US 41) during convention week. However, the upper reversible lanes that provide access to downtown Tampa from Brandon and vice versa will remain open on their regular traffic flow schedule. DETOUR: Use Interstate 275 to Interstate 4 to pass through the area if you regularly use the Selmon Crosstown; again expect delays in the area.

Numerous street closures and temporary traffic patterns in the downtown Tampa area - the press release issued by the United States Secret Service has more details on what you need to know.

Amtrak will be running their regular Silver Star schedules, Train 91 southbound to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami and Train 92 northbound to Orlando, Jacksonville and further north to Washington, DC as well as Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. As Tampa Union Station is located in close proximity to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa, allow for plenty of time to get to the Amtrak station and expect delays when transiting through downtown Tampa during convention week and be sure to check train status, which can be done at the Amtrak website.

Other important information you need to know for Republican National Convention week:

If you do not have to be in downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday, 26 August 2012 in the vicinity of Tropicana Field, avoid the area on that day.

If you do not have to take care of any business in downtown Tampa the week of the Republican National Convention, avoid the area that week. Due to the enhanced security in place, a number of businesses in the downtown Tampa area will either be curtailing their operations or closing for that week; if you defnintely need to go somewhere in downtown Tampa on convention week call ahead to be sure that where you need to go will be open. If it can wait, do so.

Finally, extends a warm welcome to the delegates coming to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area for the 2012 Republican National Convention. You will enjoy everything that the Tampa/St. Petersburg area has to offer: Miles of great beaches, sports teams including baseball's Tampa Bay Rays and football's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fine arts opportunities at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, The Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, many attractions such as Busch Gardens in Tampa and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater (the home of Winter the Dolphin and where the movie Dolphin Tale was filmed), and I can't forget the region's majestic scenic attraction: The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the 191-foot high cable stayed bridge connecting St. Petersburg with Bradenton and points south. And much, much more!

The excitement starts the moment you step off your flight and ascend the jetway into Tampa International Airport! You may also want to review my handy tips for travelers flying into Tampa International Airport; it has plenty of information that you need to make your stay in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area a memorable one.