Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Dale Mabry Colundrum

As you more than likely know already, the Florida DOT has closed the exit ramp to Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A-B) from southbound Interstate 275.  This is needed so that work can progress on the new southbound lanes of Interstate 275 which is taking shape.

Unfortunately, this closure has created mass confusion as motorists wanting to access Dale Mabry Highway - also known as US 92 - from southbound Interstate 275 must exit at Himes Avenue (Exit 41C).  Adding to the confusion is the fact that motorists must be in the left hand lane to exit; in other words, this is a left exit like its counterparts at Interstate 375 (Exit 23A) and Interstate 175 (Exit 22) in downtown St. Petersburg.  Miss the Himes Avenue exit and you will have to exit at Westshore Blvd.

As in most construction zones, the left exit to Himes Avenue is marked with temporary signage mounted on wooden posts similar to how California mounts their post mounted interstate signage.  So, how do you get to Dale Mabry Highway from southbound Interstate 275, now that you have to exit at Himes Avenue and the exit ramps to Dale Mabry are closed?

It depends on which way you are going on Dale Mabry:

If you are going south on Dale Mabry, take a left onto Himes Avenue and go south to Cypress Street.  West on Cypress Street to Dale Mabry Highway.

If you are going north on Dale Mabry, take a right onto Himes Avenue and go north to Spruce Street.  West on Spruce Street to Dale Mabry Highway.

But what if you are going to Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  It's simple as taking a right onto Himes Avenue but you want to go straight ahead on Himes Avenue past Columbus Drive and the stadium will be on your left.  Just be sure to follow posted variable message signage for game day parking.

Now I want your opinion on how the Dale Mabry ramp closure is affecting you.  Go ahead, sound off by leaving a comment in the reply box below.  Just make sure to keep the comments clean, that's all I ask.

Why the backups on Interstate 275 in Tampa?

I know, it's been a long while since I posted here at the Interstate 275 Florida Blog but I have been so busy of lately.  However, I have seen plenty of backups out there on Interstate 275, so let's get started.

On one weekend the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa were narrowed to one lane resulting in enormous traffic backups, sometimes backed up as far as the hump of the Howard Frankland Bridge, as a result of the reconstruction project taking place.  Why the backups?

Usually, lane closures are scheduled during the nighttime hours when traffic is at its lightest.  But why the closures during the day, especially when you have people coming out of a Rays game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg among other things?  A lane closure or two can translate into potential gridlock, especially during the morning and/or evening commute.

Then you got your usual backups on northbound Interstate 275 in Tampa just as you come off the Howard Frankland Bridge during the evening commute.  This is something we're used to on a daily basis.

My take on the backups on Interstate 275 is this:

I think the Florida DOT could have done something better before the first shovel of dirt was turned on the Interstate 275 mega-reconstruction project from FL 60 (Exit 39) to Ashley Drive/Tampa Street/Scott Street (Exit 44) as far as commuters and other users of Interstate 275 are concerned.  That something better can be found 200 miles to the southeast:  Fort Lauderdale when Interstate 95 was reconstructed.

And the solution while Interstate 95 was being reconstructed was commuter rail, and out of that Tri-Rail was born.  Tri-Rail was supposed to be a temporary commute alternative; however, once all was said and done on Interstate 95 the ridership on Tri-Rail was so popular with Fort Lauderdale/Miami area commuters that Tri-Rail became a permanent fixture of the South Florida transit landscape, giving its residents a sensible choice.

Why couldn't the Florida DOT implement at least a temporary commuter rail alternative while Interstate 275 in Tampa is being reconstructed?  The existing CSX railroad tracks that run from Tampa to St. Petersburg through Clearwater I believe could have been put to good passenger use; after all, the last time passenger trains ran on that line was in 1984 when Amtrak discontinued service into St. Petersburg.

However, rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay region is indeed garnering more and more support.  Once the Interstate 275 mega-reconstruction project in Tampa is done, the median will be wide enough to accommodate a possible commuter rail line that can run in the middle of Interstate 275.

After all, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has Tri-Rail.  Orlando now has SunRail.  Why can't Tampa/St. Petersburg?  Our region needs rail based mass transit if we want to be competitive with other Florida metropolitan areas.