Motorists, get ready for yet another big change on Interstate 275 southbound in Tampa!
If you have had the chance or if your travels take you on southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa south of downtown Tampa, you have seen the new southbound lanes take shape along with plenty of brand new signage. Now a new construction milestone is on the horizon when southbound Interstate 275 traffic will get to use the new southbound lanes.
Another benefit of the new Interstate 275 southbound lanes is that all the exits - Howard/Armenia Avenues (Exit 42), Himes Avenue (Exit 41B), Dale Mabry Highway (Exit 41A), Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) and Westshore Blvd. (Exit 40A) - will be right lane exits instead of the temporary left lane exits we've been used to while the construction project is taking place. No more having to go through temporary ramps to get to where you need to go.
Unfortunately, the switch over is going to mean some inconvenience and the switch over will be taking place during night time hours. This will mean detours and traffic delays while the switch over takes place.
According to Tampa Bay Interstates, the switch over will take place on Friday evening, 27 March 2015 beginning at 11:30 PM and wrapped up by Saturday morning, 28 March 2015 at 5:30 AM. This is subject to change due to weather conditions; if weather conditions make it unsafe to do the switch over it will be done the next night or a night when conditions are safe.
Now here's the detour when the switch over is taking place:
Expect to be detoured off of Interstate 275 southbound (this includes westbound Interstate 4 transitioning to southbound Interstate 275) at Exit 45A, which is Downtown East/West which will put you on either Jefferson Street or Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa. Go south on either street to Kennedy Blvd., also known as FL 60.
Follow Kennedy Blvd. west across the Hillsborough River. Kennedy Blvd. provides access to the southbound Interstate 275 exits that will be closed during the switch over: Armenia/Howard Avenues, Himes Avenue, Dale Mabry Highway (US 92), Lois Avenue and Westshore Blvd.
Now if you are headed to Tampa International Airport or St. Petersburg, continue to head west on Kennedy Blvd. To reach St. Petersburg you will take a left at the intersection where Kennedy Blvd. continues west to southbound Interstate 275. To reach Tampa International Airport, continue straight (Kennedy Blvd. becomes Memorial Highway) and follow the signs. Be sure to be in your right lane as you approach the Tampa International Airport entrance and watch for traffic coming from northbound Interstate 275 as you make the lane changes.
ALTERNATIVE DETOUR ROUTE FOR ST. PETERSBURG IF COMING FROM WESTBOUND INTERSTATE 4: Take the Selmon Crosstown connector to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway (FL Toll 618), and follow the Selmon Crosstown westbound to its end at Gandy Blvd. (US 92). West on Gandy Blvd. across the Gandy Bridge to St. Petersburg; continue west on Gandy Blvd. to Interstate 275 south. Be aware of construction on Gandy Blvd. at 4 St N and Martin Luther King St N as there are temporary lane shifts in the area.
Be advised that the Selmon Crosstown is a toll road and tolls are collected via SunPass or toll-by-plate (no cash is accepted). But believe me, it's worth the toll to get around the expected congestion when the detours on Interstate 275 are in effect.
When the new southbound Interstate 275 lanes open, be aware that the new right lane exits at Exits 41B, 41A and 40B are in close succession. Plan accordingly and be in the right lane for your intended exit.
Hopefully all the construction on Interstate 275 south of downtown Tampa should be wrapped up in the latter part of 2016. But when it's all said and done, you will have four lanes of travel in either direction and there will be space in the center median for what I hope someday will be the answer to the Tampa Bay region's transit needs: Rail based mass transit in the form of commuter rail or light rail. After all, Miami and Orlando already have rail based mass transit; the time has now come for Tampa to have rail based mass transit which will provide a much needed turbo-boost to the economy of the Tampa Bay region. As I have mentioned previously, you can widen Interstate 275 to 20 lanes but you will still have traffic gridlock because of not so many transit choices.