Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Interstate 75's National Northern Terminus

While I was watching President Barack Obama taking the oath of office of President of the United States for his second term on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, 21 January 2013, I came across an interesting YouTube video and I watched it in the background (I had the YouTube sound turned down while at the same time I had the Presidential Inauguration on my HDTV).

As you and I know, Interstate 275's northern Tampa Bay Region terminus is located at Exit 59, which is the exit for FL 56 in Wesley Chapel.  FL 56 shares the same exit with Interstate 75 as Exit 275 while the actual exit for southbound Interstate 275 from southbound Interstate 75 is Exit 274.  I am grateful that the Florida DOT made this correction as far as the exit from northbound Interstate 275 to FL 56 is concerned in order to avoid motorist confusion.

Now do you know where Interstate 75's national northern terminus is?  We know where Interstate 75's national southern terminus is located, at FL 826 in Hialeah just outside of Miami.

While this may not be Interstate 275 related, remember that Interstate 75 is the parent route of four Interstate 275 routes, one in the Tampa Bay Region (Tampa/St. Petersburg) and the other three are located in:

1.  Knoxville, Tennessee:  Formerly a part of Interstate 75, Interstate 275 exists as a spur from Interstate 640 (of which Interstate 75 is routed upon as a bypass route) to downtown Knoxville just south of Interstate 40.  This section is considered more of a spur route than a through or bypass route, as the first even digit of a three digit interstate route number is supposed to be for routes that rejoin the parent route elsewhere, such as a bypass route.  Perhaps the Tennessee DOT in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) could have designated that extant segment of Interstate 75 in Knoxville - when it got rerouted onto Interstate 640 as a bypass route in 1982 as part of the World's Fair celebrations - as Interstate 175.  Besides, the same three digit number can be used in a different state.

2.  Cincinnati, Ohio:  Here is an Interstate 275 that really shows its true purpose when the Interstate Highway System was conceived in 1956:  A circumfrential bypass of the Cincinnati metropolitan area.  What makes this Interstate 275 so special is that it spans three states:  Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana for a short segment.

3.  Detroit, Michigan:  This Interstate 275 was supposed to be a bypass of the Detroit metropolitan area from Interstate 75 south of Monroe to somewhere in Springfield Township (Davisburg) in upscale Oakland County, Michigan.  Unfortunately, NIMBY prevailed in Oakland County and Interstate 275 was truncated to its present day terminus at Interstates 96 and 696 in Farmington Hills.

Detroit - along with Tampa/St. Petersburg - are two major metropolitan areas in the United States without any meaningful mass transit system.  According to Wikipedia's page on Pontiac, Michigan, there was once a commuter rail service that ran to Detroit as part of the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority, but service was discontinued in October 1983 and efforts are under way to restore service.  A workable mass transit system including commuter rail is needed if Detroit wants to recover in the economy and compete with other American metropolitan areas.  So does the Tampa/St. Petersburg area too.

If the Michigan DOT could not complete Interstate 275 to its proposed northern terminus in Springfield Township, it could be renumbered as a possible Interstate 175 as Interstate 275 does not reconnect with Interstate 75 at another point.  Unfortunately, the Michigan DOT can't change an interstate number on its own whim - instead, it has to go through the hoops of AASHTO and the FHWA for their review and approval.

By the way, Detroit has another three digit Interstate 75 route:  Interstate 375, which is a spur into downtown Detroit just like Interstate 375 into downtown St. Petersburg.  I included this just to give you an idea of how a three digit interstate highway is properly numbered:  Odd digits represent spurs, while even digits represent bypasses.

Now if you think Interstate 75 ends in Detroit, you are wrong.  From Detroit, Interstate 75 passes by Pontiac, then Grand Blanc, Flint, Bay City and Grayling.  Just before St. Ignace is another major bridge crossing the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Huron:  The Mackinac Bridge, which was completed in 1957.  Both the Mackinac Bridge and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge - the Sunshine Skyway being a part of Interstate 275 - are a part of the Interstate 75 system in its own right.

Right after crossing the Mackinac Bridge Interstate 75 enters Michigan's Upper Peninsula and passes by the city of St. Ignace.  Another 50+ miles later, Interstate 75's next city is Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  What makes Sault Ste. Marie special is that it is the home of the national northern terminus of Interstate 75, right after you pass Exit 394, Easterday Avenue.  Beyond Easterday Avenue is a toll plaza for the international bridge that connects Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with its twin sister, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

Speaking of the YouTube video I was watching while I had the Presidential Inauguration on TV, here it is, courtesy of YouTube user Cochrab:

Perhaps the Michigan DOT could place a mileage sign on southbound Interstate 75 just south of Easterday Avenue in Sault Ste. Marie showing the mileage not only to Detroit, but to Tampa as well as Interstate 75's national southern terminus in Miami.  I put Tampa in there as Interstate 75 is a sentimental favorite of vacationers who make the trip south to Florida for the winter as well as those who use Interstate 75 to head south to Florida for the perfect Florida vacation!  Most Canadian "snowbirds" usually join Interstate 75 in Detroit after crossing the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and clearing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but there are some snowbirds that make the complete Interstate 75 crossing from Sault Ste. Marie too.

Besides, if you are headed southbound on Interstate 75 going over the Florida state line from Georgia, several miles after the Florida Welcome Center you start seeing signage not only for Tampa, but for Interstate 275 to St. Petersburg.  Perhaps the Florida DOT put up those mileage to Interstate 275 signs on southbound Interstate 75 right after the Florida Welcome Center for that "you're almost there" look and feel.

So, I'd thought I give you a little insight as to where Interstate 75 - the parent of our Interstate 275 here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area - goes if you were to just drive north.  Instead of stopping in Wesley Chapel, you would pass through northern Florida and cross Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan and - 394 miles from the Ohio-Michigan border - Sault Ste. Marie, Easterday Avenue and the international bridge that separates the United States from Canada.  After all, Interstate 75 is over 1,780 miles of interstate highway pleasure, ready at your service.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Changes to the Dale Mabry Exit (Exit 41A/B)

If you frequently use the Dale Mabry Highway (US 92) exit from southbound Interstate 275 (Exit 41A/B) you will want to read this.

As you probably know already, Interstate 275 from east of FL 60 (Exit 39) to west of Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets (Exit 44) is already undergoing a total transformation.  The segment on northbound Interstate 275 from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to the Hillsborough River, which was already completed, is a preview of what you'll see when it's all said and done, scheduled to be in 2016 according to the Florida DOT.

Starting Wednesday morning, 9 January 2013, the circular ramp from southbound Interstate 275 onto southbound Dale Mabry Highway (actually westbound US 92) will close permanently.  This is needed so that work can begin on building the new Interstate 275 southbound lanes in the area.

But don't worry, you'll still be able to exit southbound Interstate 275 at Dale Mabry Highway.  The exit ramp for northbound Dale Mabry from southbound Interstate 275 will be converted into an all purpose exit ramp allowing for traffic from southbound Interstate 275 to exit onto Dale Mabry Highway in either direction.  Moreover, Exit 41B (northbound Dale Mabry) and Exit 41A (southbound Dale Mabry) will be renamed as Exit 41A/B to reflect the changes that are taking place.

Besides, we have to endure temporary inconveniences if we want a better Interstate 275.  When it's all said and done in 2016, you will experience a much smoother ride and you won't have to go through the roller coaster effect as you cross the many side streets and interchanges.  What I mean by the roller coaster effect is how Interstate 275 was originally designed when it was built in the early to mid 1960's as a section of Interstate 4:  You quickly go up to go over a side street or interchange and then you quickly go down to ground level.

Minor changes coming to the website

Happy new year!

Hopefully everyone had a great holiday season; now that the holidays are over everyone is getting back into their normal routine.  I have noticed that Interstate 275 is getting increasingly heavier traffic, especially during the morning and evening commute, now that everyone is back home from their holiday vacations.

Now for some minor changes that are coming soon.  You will want to read this and update your bookmarks and links as appropriate.

If you have noticed by typing or into your browser, it takes you to the Interstate 375 or Interstate 175 pages here at respectively.  After all, Interstates 375 and 175 are the feeders from Interstate 275 into downtown St. Petersburg.

Unfortunately, domain names cost money each year to renew.  When you maintain so many domain names the domain name bill adds up.

In that regard, I am going to make a couple of changes to the downtown St. Petersburg feeders pages here at

The I175 and I375 names that are in front of are what are called subdomains.  These subdomains will point to a specific page here at; as an example when you type into your browser it will take you to the Interstate 375 page, the north downtown St. Petersburg feeder, at

No content will change, just how you access it.  Just another way of making content easily accessible here at  Be sure to update your bookmarks and links!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pinellas Point Dr S at southbound Interstate 275: Blind visibility

We're right into 2013 already and I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Years.  Whether you stepped out on the town to ring in the New Year or decided to stay at home and watch the ball drop on Times Square in New York City, I'm sure you had a great New Years.

As we were closing out 2012, an unfortunate head on accident happened on southbound Interstate 275 just north of the Pinellas Point Drive S exit (Exit 16).  According to this article in the St. Petersburg Times by staff writer Laura Morel, a Pontiac driven by Sandra Weems was headed northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 275 collided with a van headed south.  The driver and passengers of the van were taken to Bayfront Medical Center where two had minor injuries while two had serious injuries.  Unfortunately, Sandra Weems was pronounced dead at the scene.

Here is a comment I left for the St. Petersburg Times regarding what happened that I would like to share with you:

How could Sandra Weems drive the wrong way northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 275? From reading this article, Sandra probably entered Interstate 275 at Pinellas Point Drive South (Exit 16) onto the southbound exit ramp.

I recently took a ride out to Pinellas Point Dr S on Interstate 275 and I found two things:

1. The ramp is protected by only two "Do Not Enter" signs on either side. According to the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) two "Wrong Way" signs on either side of the ramp facing traffic going in the wrong direction are supposed to be installed midway between the exit and the intersecting street.  (According to the recent edition of the MUTCD, those "Wrong Way" signs are considered optional, but I think these should be mandatory (see Section 2B.41 and Figure 2B-18)). 

2. The ramp dips down from Interstate 275 level to ground street level due to the way it is designed. When this segment of Interstate 275 opened in 1987 the interchange at Pinellas Point Dr S used to have traffic signals but these were removed due to low traffic counts.

Perhaps the Florida DOT should have installed - midway on the exit ramp - a red blinking signal plus an alarm bell to warn motorists going the wrong way along with a fixed Wrong Way sign.

The way the off ramp to Pinellas Point Dr S from southbound Interstate 275 was designed, you can't see what is ahead of you until you are practically on top of the off ramp headed downward to street level.  Yes there are stop ahead signs once you are on the ramp and stop signs once you are right at Pinellas Point Dr S, but it's a matter of sight distance.

If someone enters the southbound exit ramp to Pinellas Point Dr S from Interstate 275 going the wrong way, practically no one exiting would see it until it's practically too late.  This would be akin to the ramp onto eastbound Interstate 375 from southbound Interstate 275 (remember when a tanker truck went over the guardrail and ended up in a maintenance yard below?), only the Interstate 375 ramp is a sharp curve to the left compared to the limited sight distance from Pinellas Point Dr S.

The solution that the Florida DOT should consider is a red blinking signal and audible alarm mounted on top of a wrong way sign located midway on the ramp between the point of exit and the intersecting street.  A sensor buried in the pavement would detect a vehicle going the wrong direction setting off the red blinking signal and alarm.  There is an installation like what I described on northbound Interstate 75 at the Webster exit (Exit 309) south of Bushnell; it is installed on the northbound off ramp due to the ramp's circular design.

In fact, there used to be a similar wrong way alarm setup on Interstate 275 at the Tampa Airport exit (Exit 39) when there was a ramp to Cypress Street that was built in the mid-1970's as part of the direct access ramp from St. Petersburg right to Tampa Airport.  Unfortunately, access to Cypress Street was removed when the interchanges in the airport vicinity were revamped a few years ago.  It worked on the same principle:  If a vehicle were to go the wrong way southbound onto the northbound Interstate 275 lanes a sensor buried in the pavement would set off a blinking red signal and alarm to warn traffic.

So, my suggestion to reduce the potential of accidents from wrong way entry onto Interstate 275 from Pinellas Point Dr S, especially the southbound off ramp would be as follows:

1.  Install wrong way signage along with blinking red signal and audible alarm, all facing traffic going the wrong way.  There would also be a blinking red signal facing traffic exiting the highway to let motorists know of the presence of a wrong way motorist on the ramp.

2.  Put back the traffic signals that were originally installed when the Pinellas Point Dr S interchange at Interstate 275 (Exit 16) opened in 1987.  However, there are certain conditions - called warrants according to the MUTCD - that have to be met before a traffic signal can be installed.  With the low vehicle counts that exist, it is highly unlikely that the traffic signals would be reinstalled.