Sunday, October 14, 2012

One widening project done, another major project getting underway

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

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

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

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

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

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