Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year from!

First I want to wish all of our viewers a prosperous new year 2008!

2007 brought about some much needed maintenance work on Interstate 275, especially in the St. Petersburg area. We have seen several concrete pavement rehabilitation projects in various locations along Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. More notably, work is almost done on the concrete rehabilitation project from Gandy Blvd. (Exit 28) to north of 54 Av N (Exit 26) at the 62 Av N overpass. Further south, there is still work going on at Interstate 175 as well as Interstate 275 south of Interstate 175 (Exit 22) to north of 22 Av S (Exit 19).

Meanwhile, over on the Tampa side, 2007 saw the start of work that will eventually transform Interstate 275 into a wider highway starting with the section from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) towards the Hillsborough River and Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets (Exit 44). Additionally, the Tampa International Airport interchanges began to start taking its new shape slowly with the recent opening of the new flyover not too long ago as I mentioned in a previous post. We also can't forget the installation of several new electronic variable message signs that inform us of distance and time to a given exit as well as informing us of any congestion.

As you and I know already, construction on Interstate 275 whether it's concrete rehabilitation or an all new makeover has its inconveniences: Barricades, barrels, reduced speed limits, Florida Highway Patrol presence, and construction equipment everywhere. But in the end, we will have a newer yet safer Interstate 275 not only for us Tampa Bay area residents but for everyone else as well.

As always, updates to the site will be made as construction progresses and new permanent signage is posted. In the meantime, have a safe happy new year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

A new way to get to Interstate 275 from Tampa International Airport

On Saturday, 22 December 2007 (just in time for Christmas!) a new flyover has opened for traffic headed for Interstate 275 from Tampa International Airport and the way you get to Interstate 275 to St. Petersburg or Tampa or FL 60 if you are headed for the Veterans Expressway or Clearwater by way of the Courtney Campbell Causeway from the airport will be modified slightly.

What does this mean for you? For those headed to St. Petersburg from the airport, that will mean no more having to make those quick weave movements to get where you want to go. I know, the new ramps will be a little confusing at first but we'll get used to it, so here it goes as to how you will exit Tampa International Airport:

If you are headed to Interstate 275:

You will follow a new flyover bridge which will soar about 70 feet high at its peak, offering a great view of Tampa Bay and the Howard Frankland Bridge as you head south. After the flyover there will be a temporary ramp which will put you in position for Interstate 275.

If you are headed to the Veterans Expressway or Clearwater via FL 60:

From what I understand there will be two new ramps, one a permanent and one a temporary ramp. Traffic headed towards the Veterans Expressway will use the new permanent ramp while traffic headed to Clearwater will use the temporary ramp. I believe this arrangement will help prevent these somehow dangerous weaving manuevers on FL 60 westbound just after you leave the airport.

Again I know it will be confusing at first but these changes are needed as work progresses on the Tampa Airport interchanges project which I believe will wrap up around 2010 according to the Florida DOT. It is very crucial when traffic is shifted to a new pattern so that the contractor can proceed on the next phase of the project; after all, when the improvements were planned many years ago it has to be done in a sequence that will minimize any disruption to traffic coming into and out of the airport. You got people headed to the airport trying to make their flight and you can't have any delays for motorists accessing the airport.

So, the best advice is when the new flyover ramps open watch the signs carefully when you exit Tampa International Airport, especially if you are a visitor to the Tampa Bay area and drive a rental car. I think the new ramps will be the best improvement ever made since the Tampa International Airport as we know today opened in 1971.

One of the many signs on the new ramp to Interstate 275 from TIA

And by the way, while we are on the subject of Interstate 275:

If you have driven on Interstate 275 lately between Exit 26 (54 Av N) and Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd./FL 694) you will by now have noticed the newly grinded concrete pavement as a part of the concrete rehabilitation project taking place. I got to agree, the newly grinded concrete pavement is much better and it improves the ride every time you drive Interstate 275 in this area. Moreover, a new mast arm traffic signal is in operation at Gandy Blvd. from the northbound Interstate 275 exit ramp which is a much better improvement than the old traffic signals on the span wire and Gandy Blvd. got an asphalt pavement makeover as well.

Let's head south to Interstate 175, one of the feeders serving downtown St. Petersburg. If you have driven Interstate 175 lately you will have noticed the newly grinded concrete pavement just like the concrete pavement on Interstate 275 mentioned earlier. In addition to the concrete pavement rehabilitation, signage is being replaced on Interstate 175 which means new signs! The original signage was in need of replacement as the original signage was installed when Interstate 175 opened back in 1979.

If you haven't been by Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg lately, you're in for a treat! You are probably asking yourself when I will get pictures of the newly installed signage on Interstate 175 to feature on the Interstate 175 page here at; that will probably be soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Backing up on Interstate 275: Don't do it!

Lately I have seen motorists on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area, particularly in St. Petersburg, backing up in the emergency lane. Just a day or so before Thanksgiving, I witnessed someone backing up on the entrance ramp to Interstate 275 northbound from 54 Av N (Exit 26).

Yes, I know, you have to be somewhere and you probably either overrun the intended exit or you did not mean to go onto Interstate 275. However, according to section 316.1985 of the Florida Statutes, it's the law: Backing up on Interstate 275 is illegal. Not only it's illegal, it's dangerous.

Consider this: Realize you are on a high speed interstate highway such as Interstate 275 and everyone is going in the same direction as you are. You know that the emergency lane is there in case your vehicle has a breakdown. Anytime someone tries to back up to save a precious few minutes, you are putting yourself, your passengers, and your fellow motorists in danger.

Now here's what you can do if in the event you overrun your exit or enter Interstate 275 by mistake:

Overrunning your exit: Simply go on to the next exit, even if the next exit happens to be across the Howard Frankland Bridge, and turn around there. Speaking of the Howard Frankland Bridge, the closest exits where you can make a legal turnaround are Exit 39A (Kennedy Blvd./FL 60 East) for northbound and Exit 32 (4 St N/FL 687) for southbound Interstate 275.

Entered Interstate 275 by mistake: Do not back up under any circumstances - instead, drive on to the next exit, where you can turn around and return to where you entered Interstate 275.

Those precious few minutes that you try to save by backing up illegally on Interstate 275 isn't worth it. Not only you could get written up with a Florida Uniform Traffic Citation courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol (or any other law enforcement agency), you could end up involved in an accident and possibly end up in the ER at Bayfront Medical Center or elsewhere. Believe me, I would rather watch one of my favorite TV shows, ER, than end up in the real ER by accident. Moreover, your attempt to save some time can cost you money in the long run, especially in fines and medical expenses if an accident occurs.

So, the simplest explanation: Don't back up on Interstate 275 (or any other interstate highway in the Tampa Bay area) under any circumstances! It only takes just a few minutes to the next exit!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Interstate 75 planned to get a makeover

Recently I came across an interesting article on Bay News 9 about the Florida DOT announcing plans to widen Interstate 75 from Interstate 275 (Exit 274) northward to FL 52 (Exit 285) from the current four lanes to six lanes. A highlight of the planned improvements is for northbound Interstate 75 and northbound Interstate 275 to get their own exit ramps to FL 56, which is the exit adjacent to the northern Interstate 275 terminus. Currently FL 56 - or Exit 275 as it is known - requires a quick weave movement from northbound Interstate 75 in order to exit. For those coming from Interstate 275 north a quick change of lanes is required if you want to stay on Interstate 75.

A description of the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 is available simply by clicking on this link to go to the page on Fletcher Avenue, Bearss Avenue and the northern Interstate 275 terminus in the Tampa section of Scroll down about two thirds of the way and you can check out the pictures I have of Exit 274, northbound and southbound Interstate 275 and perspective from Interstate 75. While you are there check out the background information at the top of the page.

As more and more people live in the new developments being constructed around Interstate 75 in Pasco County the original four lanes of Interstate 75 need to be widened and exits need to be reconstructed to meet the additional traffic demand. After all, you have an interstate highway which was constructed in 1965 as a rural four lane highway which was appropriate for that time period. The construction of FL 56 with a new interchange on Interstate 75 north of the Interstate 275 terminus several years ago was a start, but more is needed in order to keep up with growth.

In my opinion, it's a splendid idea to widen Interstate 75 from Interstate 275 to FL 52 and revise the exit ramps to FL 56 from northbound Interstate 75. However, more is needed not only for those living in Pasco County and commuting to Tampa daily but for those in neighboring New Tampa in Hillsborough County as well. Here is my suggestion as to what the Florida DOT should additionally consider in planning the proposed improvements to Interstate 75:

1. Construct a flyover from northbound Interstate 75 to southbound Interstate 275.
2. Construct a ramp from northbound Interstate 275 to southbound Interstate 75.
3. Extend the widening of Interstate 75 from Interstate 275 southward to where Interstate 75 widens out to six lanes now at Fowler Avenue.
4. Widen Interstate 275 from north of Bearss Avenue to Interstate 75.

The first three items mentioned above would benefit residents of the New Tampa area by having a connection to Interstate 275 directly from Interstate 75 without having to make a turnaround at FL 56, as well as providing another way to downtown Tampa rather than Bruce B Downs or Interstate 75 south to Interstate 4 (even though the flyover at Bruce B Downs is being built). The fourth item would address capacity concerns on Interstate 275 as traffic coming from Interstate 75 and/or FL 56 would be squeezed onto a four lane highway from a spacious six lane highway, resulting in backups especially during the morning and evening commutes. The currently proposed improvements plus what I mentioned I feel would be a win-win situation for everyone on either side of the Hillsborough-Pasco County Line.

But of course improvements cost money (we're talking multi million dollars here) and in this current day and age where Florida government has to cut back spending due to lowered property taxes, it all depends. But with rapid growth these improvements are going to be needed.

Now I want to hear your suggestions. Please feel free to post a reply with what you think on the proposed Interstate 75 expension.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Interstate 275 Reconstruction Project Underway at Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd.)

If you have noticed the signs and the construction equipment on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg from Gandy Blvd. (Exit 28) to the 62 Av N overpass, another reconstruction project is underway. Like all the other reconstruction projects that have taken place on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, it's going to involve the replacement of concrete slabs in places where it has deteriorated. After that is done then the concrete pavement will be grinded down to a travelable surface. I am not sure if signage is going to be replaced as needed or not like all of the other Interstate 275 reconstruction projects.

This project will take place not only on the mainline Interstate 275 but also on the Gandy Blvd. ramps as well, which may mean ramp closures from time to time and hopefully these closures should take place at night when there is not a lot of traffic. After all, Gandy Blvd. is one of Interstate 275's heavily used exits as traffic to and from Pinellas Park and Seminole plus those that live in the far northeast St. Petersburg community use this interchange. Additionally, Gandy Blvd. sees plenty of traffic especially during the morning and afternoon rush hour.

While we're on the subject of Interstate 275 at Gandy Blvd., I have drawn up a conceptual plan as to how the interchange on Interstate 275 at Gandy Blvd. should be reconfigured given today's (and tomorrow's projected) traffic volume. You may want to head on over to my page on my conceptual Interstate 275 at Exit 28 makeover at and read more about my conceptual plan to make traffic easier.

According to the folks at the Florida DOT by way of the website the Interstate 275 reconstruction from Gandy Blvd. to the 62 Av N overpass should be wrapped up around Spring 2008. Like I have mentioned on previous posts any Interstate 275 construction project is going to mean some inconvenience but in the end we will have a better Interstate 275 for all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Interstate 175 Reconstruction Underway

If you are one of those motorists who make Interstate 175 a part of your morning commute, chances are you have seen construction taking place. What you are seeing is a reconstruction project similar to that on Interstate 375 done in 2006.

Much like what was done on Interstate 375, this project will involve the following according to the Florida DOT's Tampa Bay Interstates site:

1. Replacement of concrete slabs where needed such as cracked slabs

2. Resurfacing of the concrete surface for a smooth travel experience

3. And most importantly, replacement of signage as needed (some of the signage is there from day one when Interstate 175 was opened around 1979)

Until the work is completed, you may see lane shifts and sometimes closures as needed. I know, it's an inconvenience to all but we have to endure these conditions if we want better roads. For more information you may want to check out the Florida DOT's Tampa Bay Interstates site at and select the Interstate 175 icon at the top of the page. Additionally, for more information on Interstate 175 you may want to check out my Interstate 175 page at

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gentlemen, start your (reconstruction) engines!

Just when you thought all is said and done on Interstate 4, another interstate reconstruction project is just about to get underway.

Did I say another interstate reconstruction project? Yes! Those projects where we have to dodge the construction barrels and barricades, endure heavier than normal traffic and reduced speed limits, not to mention the temporary roadways that will be in place as the project progresses.

Only this time, it's on Interstate 275 in Tampa from SR 60 (Exit 39) to the Hillsborough River just west of Ashley/Tampa/Scott Streets (Exit 44). However, the project is being done in three stages with the first stage from Himes Avenue eastward to the Hillsborough River (according to the folks at the Florida DOT at their Tampa Bay Interstates site, Interstate 275 from Exit 39 to the Hillsborough River was supposed to be done as one big project but the bids came in too high; instead, the FDOT decided to break up this project into three segments for cost reasons). So, here's the scoop on what will take place over the next few years from what I understand so far:

1. Construct the new northbound lanes using newly acquired right of way.

2. Once the new northbound lanes are open, direct traffic onto the new northbound lanes. At the same time, convert the existing northbound lanes into temporary southbound lanes.

3. Demolish the existing southbound lanes and construct new southbound lanes.

4. Once the new southbound lanes are open, demolish the existing northbound lanes.

Once this segment from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to the Hillsborough River is done, start with the next segment. However, I am not sure if the FDOT will be doing the segments concurrently or staggered (in other words, work on one segment at a time or do the segments with three different contractors basically at the same time).

Once this is said and done on all three Interstate 275 segments, we should see eight lanes of travel, four lanes northbound and four lanes southbound plus a spacious median which can accommodate light rail or commuter rail based transit.

Did I say light rail or commuter rail based transit?

There was a recent Bay News 9 Viewer Center iPoll on 6 August 2007 asking viewers if the construction on Interstate 275 will make a difference as to traffic congestion in the Tampa Bay area when all is said and done. According to a response I posted, I think in the short term the improvements to Interstate 275 should address the traffic congestion issue but in the long run, it is not going to work without the introduction of rail-based mass transit.

Rail based mass transit is desperately needed in the Tampa Bay area for a lot of reasons, and the one chief reason is growth. We have commuters who live out there in the suburbs (like New Tampa, Carrollwood, Lutz and Palm Harbor just to name a few) and work in places such as downtown Tampa or downtown St. Petersburg or even in the Carillon area of northeast St. Petersburg. Why? You can thank unaffordable housing for one thing because most areas close to work are probably out of the price range, thereby having to live so far away and commute a long distance to work daily. We need a rail based mass transit system that will serve the three principal communities of the Tampa Bay area - Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater - supplanted by a system of feeder buses that will run between the smaller communities and the nearest rail station for a seamless commute to and from work. Don't forget the weekends and holidays too!

When we get Interstate 275 all said and done as to the proposed reconstruction we as a Tampa Bay area should seriously consider looking at rail based mass transit. The wide medians on the newly reconstructed segments of Interstate 4 and (coming soon) Interstate 275 should allow for the implementation of a rail based mass transit system. On the other hand, I came up with a drawing of what could happen if out transit needs go unchecked and we have to eventually expand Interstate 275 to at least 20 lanes:

After all, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has rail based mass transit. So does Washington DC and Baltimore. So does Los Angeles. Don't forget, Orlando is getting rail based mass transit soon. But if we Tampa Bay area residents don't do anything about fixing our transit issues after Interstate 275 is reconstructed this is what navigating the Tampa Bay area will be like: New York City without the subway or commuter rail (and imagine the gridlock).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Reflections on the Minneapolis bridge tragedy in relation to the Sunshine Skyway

We experienced another tragedy with the collapse of the bridge that carries Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis on 1 August 2007. From seeing the video of the collapse as it happened it is believed that there are injuries and deaths as a result of the bridge collapse. But before I go on further, please let me say that my thoughts go out to the families affected by this bridge collapse.

It brings back memories of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge disaster that happened on 9 May 1980. For most of us living in the Tampa Bay area around that time we definitely remember what happened. The freighter Summit Venture collided with the southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a blinding rainstorm at 7:38 AM, first striking a major channel pier and then striking the pier immediately south of the major channel pier. This pier - which held up the south cantilever - upon impact by the ship and the pier being sheared off at the base began a series of events that led to 1,260 feet of concrete and steel dropped 150 feet into Tampa Bay taking with it 35 lives including several on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami. Only two people survived this terrible tribulation: Richard Hornbuckle who managed to stop his Buick only 14 inches from going over the edge and Wesley McIntire who went off the bridge but managed to survive by escaping from his pickup truck and swimming upwards to the surface where he was rescued by the crew of the Summit Venture.

I remember that morning when I was getting ready for school and it was raining. Then I heard on the radio that a ship was on a collision course with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Later on when I saw the pictures on TV at school I was shocked to see a Sunshine Skyway Bridge missing a tooth: 1,260 feet of bridge from just south of the north main channel pier to the pier south of the pier that was destroyed by the ship. The images of these channel piers plus the wreckage on the bow of the Summit Venture would be indeed ingrained in our memories for the forseeable future. For the next seven years the monument to disaster on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge would be that main channel pier on the south side of the shipping channel that held up the southbound span (that's the channel pier that looked different than the other three main channel piers as a result of repairs done in 1969, two years before the southbound span opened in 1971). That monument to disaster was torn down in 1991 when the old Sunshine Skyway was demolished.

Back when the Sunshine Skyway fell in 1980 Interstate 275 was not part of the Sunshine Skyway yet - that would come seven years later when the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened and Interstate 275 was completed through St. Petersburg. The rest of the Sunshine Skyway's minor bridges and highway were brought up to interstate standards including the drawbridges that were torn down and reconstructed as high level fixed span bridges in the early 1990's. After all, none of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans (1954 and 1971) were built to interstate standards. Right after the tragedy there was talk of not including the Sunshine Skyway with Interstate 275; however, the construction of Interstate 275 was a crucial asset to the Tampa Bay area and, as such, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we know it today is that crucial link to Interstate 275.

As for the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis, it carries Interstate 35W as it crosses the Mississippi River and through metropolitan Minneapolis. A companion interstate highway, Interstate 35E, carries traffic through St. Paul, which is Minnesota's state capital. Interstate 35 is unique in that it has two route designations as it passes through two metropolises, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Back when the Interstate Highway System was planned these letter suffixes were allowed but the United States DOT's Federal Highway Administration, acting on the advice of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), did away with the suffixes and no longer allowed their use. However, the Interstate 35W and 35E designations were allowed to be grandfathered. Here in the Tampa Bay area when Interstate 75 was being constructed it was planned for Interstate 75 to go through the metropolitan areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg and the bypass route was planned to be Interstate 75E. The routes were constructed but the numbering didn't happen as planned as letter suffixes were no longer allowed when the bypass route was being planned. Today Interstate 75 runs on the newly constructed bypass route that takes it east of Tampa and the original Interstate 75 that goes into Tampa and St. Petersburg is today's Interstate 275.

Please feel free to browse the Interstate 275 Florida site and be sure to check out the Sunshine Skyway Bridge page. Your comments and reflections, especially about the recent bridge collapse tragedy in Minneapolis, are always welcome.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tips for navigating Interstate 275 when it rains!

It's the summer season already, and by now if not already the summer thundershowers common to the Tampa Bay area are here. For those who are visiting us or on the afternoon commute home from work here are some tips for when you encounter our summer thundershowers on Interstate 275.

Driving in our summer thundershowers on Interstate 275 calls for special attention!

1. Most importantly, reduce your speed when you approach the rain and the trail of brake lights. 65 or 70 mph does not mean 65 or 70 mph all the time - you are supposed to drive in a reasonable and prudent manner when you approach an area of reduced visibility not only with rain but smoke or fog.

2. Ease up on your accelerator and don't attempt to stop suddenly - the oily slick interstate created by the rain is a recipe for an accident caused by skidding. If you have to use your brakes, tap on them lightly but slowly.

3. Give driving your 100% attention especially during the summer thundershowers - the cell phone call can wait until you are in a safe place.

4. The only time you want to use your 4-way flashers is if you are pulled over in an emergency situation. 4-way flashers are not meant to be used while your vehicle is in motion; in heavy rain someone can run into you thinking that you are stopped. Speaking of emergency situations if your vehicle breaks down for any reason please by all means pull over to the nearest shoulder so that you are not obstructing traffic in any way.

5. Turn on your headlights, even if you have daytime running lamps. The daytime running lamps do not turn on your vehicle's rear tail lights when you need it. Remember to turn them off when you reach your destination to avoid a dead battery. Besides, having headlights on during rain as well as fog or smoke is mandatory per Florida Statutes.

6. Allow extra time to get to your destination, especially if you have to be somewhere at a given time. Leave early if you can.

7. Make sure your wipers and tires are in excellent condition for the road. Also check your windshield washer reservoir periodically and replenish as needed. Sometimes a light rain occurs and you have to use your windshield washers on the road as well.

8. If you breakdown on Interstate 275 or any other highway in the Tampa Bay area, pull over in a safe place such as the nearest shoulder. You may call *FHP (*347) on your cell phone to request a road ranger be sent to your location.

If we can follow these safe practices for navigating Interstate 275 during the summer thundershowers we can get to our destinations safely especially during the rain! If you have any other safety tips for summer thunderstorm driving please feel free to reply at any time. Thanks!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The New Tampa Connector to Interstate 275 South

Here is the typical morning commute route from the New Tampa community to downtown Tampa: Bruce B Downs Blvd to Interstate 75, then Interstate 75 south to Interstate 4, then Interstate 4 west into downtown Tampa. Fight the traffic backups prevalent especially on Interstates 75 and 4 in the morning. Oh, and don't forget, turn on the TV and check the current traffic report given by Russ Handler on Bay News 9 before you head out the door.

Right now the Florida DOT is constructing a flyover ramp from westbound Bruce B Downs to southbound Interstate 75 in order to help ease traffic flow as traffic backs up on Bruce B Downs waiting for the light to change so that traffic can enter Interstate 75 southbound. That might sound good for you New Tampa residents out there, but I think that's not enough.

Enter the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, the purveyor of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway and its reversible upper deck from Brandon to downtown Tampa. Ever since that one pier of the upper deck sank during construction a few years ago the expressway authority has been embroiled into a lot of controversy over the years leading to calls for abolition of the expressway authority from a few Florida legislators among other things.

Now the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority has something on its planning books: A connector highway that would connect New Tampa with Interstate 275. This highway, dubbed the New Tampa Connector, would be a toll road which would be privately operated. That's right, privately operated with tolls that could be so expensive that no one could afford to pay to drive on that road. At least for 30 years, perhaps, according to an article in the Tampa Tribune on 26 February 2006.

In my opinion, the New Tampa Connector road is not needed. Why?

Before I go on further, for those people stumbling onto this blog that don't know where New Tampa is, it is a community situated northeast of Tampa on Bruce B Downs Blvd., which is the main street through this community. New Tampa was built by developers in the 1990's, spurred by the completion of Interstate 75 and the construction of an interchange at Bruce B Downs Blvd. in the late 1980's. Today New Tampa is a progressive community with apartments, condominiums, shopping centers, and schools. New Tampa is part of the City of Tampa by way of annexation (those of you that live in New Tampa remember at one point secession from the City of Tampa and forming Hillsborough County's fourth incorporated city called New Tampa ... well, that's another story).

North of Bruce B Downs Blvd. on Interstate 75 (Exit 270) is the northern terminus of Interstate 275, Exit 274. This is where the extension of Interstate 75 from the Hillsborough-Pasco County line to Miami took place in leaps and bounds with early segments around Ft. Myers in the late 1970's. The Alligator Alley connecting Naples with Ft. Lauderdale was reconstructed and absorbed into Interstate 75 around 1991, creating a continuous interstate highway from FL 826 in Miami to the Canadian Border in Sault St. Marie, Michigan.

Now what's so special about the Interstate 275 northern terminus? It's simple: The Interstate 275 northern terminus only features northbound entry onto and southbound exit from Interstate 75, while the southern terminus of Interstate 275 in Manatee County near Ellenton is a full access interchange.

Presently those who want to enter Interstate 275 southbound from Interstate 75 northbound cannot directly do so - instead, motorists must go to the next exit on Interstate 75 northbound, Exit 275/FL 56, and turn around there.

So, my suggestion would be for the Florida DOT to consider converting the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 from a partial access interchange to a full access interchange. Ramps cound be built with capacity for the commuter traffic that would use it in the morning and in the evening. The ramp from northbound Interstate 75 to southbound Interstate 275 would be constructed as a gradual loop with a right exit from Interstate 75 northbound, then over a flyover bridge to Interstate 275 southbound entering on the right hand side. On the other hand, the ramp from northbound Interstate 275 to southbound Interstate 75 would be a gradual right curve ramp with two lanes.

Then Interstate 75 would be widened from the current four lanes to six lanes from Interstate 275 to Bruce B Downs Blvd with the capability for expansion later on down the road. Especially on the Interstate 75 southbound lanes, the third right lane would be needed to avert traffic backups on the Interstate 75 southbound mainline headed towards Bruce B Downs Blvd.

And don't forget, we got County Line Road that crosses the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75. As this area grows later on we can add access to both Interstate 75 and southbound Interstate 275 from County Line Road.

Problem solved.

If the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 would be converted from partial to full access it would give New Tampa residents two better options to get to downtown Tampa in the morning: Either use the new flyover from westbound Bruce B Downs or head north on Interstate 75 for only four miles to the Interstate 275 northern terminus.

But in the long run, fixing and widening roads is not the cure-all: The Tampa Bay area needs a rail-based mass transit system in order to cope with the increasing demand. But that's a topic for another blog entry altogether.

So, money could be saved somehow by not constructing the New Tampa Connector and instead upgrading the northern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 from a partial to a full access interchange. As for the land set aside for the New Tampa Connector, let's use the land for something else which would benefit the public interest. As for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, it needs to spend its money wisely elsewhere (such as identifying another expressway needs, either elsewhere in Hillsborough County or upgrading Gandy Blvd. from the Gandy Bridge to the current southern terminus of the Crosstown Expressway) and not on a toll road that will not be affordable for everyone to use.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The ramp to Interstate 375 is back!

After so many weeks, the ramp from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 (Exit 23A) is back!

While on my way to a Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field I read the electronic overhead sign just before 54 Av N (Exit 26) stating that the ramp onto Interstate 375 is still closed. Then, as I approach 22 Av N (Exit 24) I notice the construction workers changing the portable variable message sign letting motorists know that the ramp to Interstate 375 has reopened!

Interstate 375 is back!!!

So, I checked it out as it was on my way to The Trop. The contractor who did the emergency repair did an excellent job of restoring the ramp to a condition that is better than before. I got to admit it, I got to give credit to the Florida DOT for their efforts in getting a very important piece of Interstate 275 repaired and reopened to traffic in the shortest time possible.

After all, lots of motorists use the ramp from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 for plenty of reasons and it sees plenty of use in the mornings during the morning commute. For the past few weeks those commuters that have used Interstate 375 to get to where they need to go downtown were somewhat inconvenienced by having to take a detour out of the way by using Interstate 175, Interstate 375's partner immediately to the south.

From what I understand, I believe the Florida DOT may be upgrading signage in the area to reflect the fact that the exit ramp is 50 mph and the ramp is a left exit. If and when the signage upgrade takes place, motorists should be advised as far as 38 Av N (Exit 25) that a left exit is coming up giving some ample opportunity for motorists to change lanes if needed to avoid the exit ramp if desired. Presently there is very inadequate warning of the left exit and reduced speed other than a small posted Exit 50 mph sign mounted on the left side as you approach Interstate 375. The same signage upgrade should also be done for Interstate 375's partner in downtown St. Petersburg, Interstate 175 as it also features a left exit and inadequate speed reduction warning signage.

Moreover, as I mentioned in my previous post when Interstate 275 at Interstate 375 and 5 Av N was constructed in 1977, the ramp to both roads should have been done as a right exit like most of the other exits on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. Had it been constructed this way perhaps tragedies such as the tanker truck collision on Interstate 375 may have been avoided.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Variable Message Signs on Interstate 275

If you have noticed while you are driving on Interstate 275 lately you may have seen one of those funny looking overhead signs that have been recently installed in St. Petersburg from Exit 26 (54 Av N) across the Howard Frankland Bridge to Exit 39 (FL 60/Kennedy Blvd/Tampa International Airport). These signs are variable message signs which look like the variable message signs already used in the Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale/Miami metro areas as well as the Florida's Turnpike.

How will these variable message signs benefit you, the Interstate 275 motorist?

Imagine getting on Interstate 275 north at Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd) and you are headed to Tampa via the Howard Frankland Bridge. You have already passed the last opportunity to exit Interstate 275 at Exit 30 (FL 686/Roosevelt Blvd) and you just passed under the 4 St N overpass at Exit 32. Suddenly - you see a traffic jam for miles on the Howard Frankland! You say to yourself that if you have known about it earlier you would have taken the Gandy Bridge into Tampa. Besides, you got to be somewhere in Tampa for a meeting.

Now with the variable message signs being installed important messages will be conveyed to motorists. For instance, in case of an accident or other breakdown on the Howard Frankland northbound causing a traffic tie up the variable message signs would advise you to use the Gandy Bridge into Tampa and give you an opportunity to exit Interstate 275 northbound at Exits 28 or 30 so that you can use the Gandy Bridge (and the Crosstown Expressway, especially if you are headed downtown) into Tampa. As you managed to get around the Howard Frankland bottleneck by being well informed and taking the Gandy Bridge into Tampa, you'll be there for that meeting instead of being stuck in traffic!

Already one of the variable message signs are in operation on southbound Interstate 275 before you get to Exit 26 (54 Av N). It's being used to warn motorists of the temporary closure of the ramp onto Interstate 275 (Exit 23A) due to the tanker truck fire that happened weeks ago (and the Florida DOT is doing everything possible to get this ramp repaired and back in service - great job Florida DOT!) as well as informing motorists of parking conditions at Tropicana Field on Tampa Bay Devil Rays game days and where to exit for other downtown St. Petersburg events. It's in the same location where an older variable message sign was located for many years.

Presently the variable message signs are being installed from north of Exit 26 (54 Av N) in St. Petersburg to north of Exit 53 (Bearss Avenue) in Tampa, with a gap from Exit 39 (FL 60) to Exit 44 (Ashley Drive/Tampa Street) due to upcoming major reconstruction for this segment of Interstate 275 in Tampa just around the corner; it would not be practical to install the variable message signs on this segment until the reconstruction is done. For more information on the upcoming Interstate 275 reconstruction in Tampa check out the Florida DOT's Tampa Bay Interstates website.

Remember, you can also find out traffic information not only for Interstate 275 but for all the major highways in the Tampa Bay area by calling 511 or visiting the 511 Tampa Bay website.

You'll enjoy the new variable message signs when it's all installed and done. Let me know what you think of the new variable message signs going up on Interstate 275.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Interstate 375 Overpass Fire

Wednesday evening, 28 March 2007.

The flyover ramp from Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 375 eastbound was quiet. The evening commute wrapped up a few hours ago.

Until sometime before 11 PM: A gasoline tanker trailer on its way to Sarasota to deliver fuel to the many convenience stores there did not make it to its destinations - instead, tragedy unfolded as the driver of the tanker trailer, thinking he may have still been on Interstate 275 headed south, exited onto Interstate 375 eastbound. Not knowing the fact that the driver was on a 50 mph ramp instead of the 65 mph highway, the tanker burst into flames as the driver tried to negotiate the near-sharp flyover ramp.

The tragic result was that the driver of the tanker truck passed away and a large fire ensued on the flyover ramp. As the flyover ramp goes over a City of St. Petersburg maintenance yard, several pieces of equipment owned by the City were lost as the gasoline from the tanker truck rained down from the overpass above.

The next morning engineers from the Florida DOT surveyed the damage to the overpass as a result of the tanker fire. It was concluded that a span of the overpass needed to be replaced as the concrete damaged in the fire was in no condition to let traffic back on.

Looking at the entrance to Interstate 375 eastbound from Interstate 275 southbound the morning after, 29 March 2007

With the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg being held the next day and the season home opener of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a week away at Tropicana Field (plus the so many commuters that regularly use this ramp) how do you manage to get by with one less exit ramp into downtown St. Petersburg? Interstate 375's cousin to the south, Interstate 175, provided the answer along with a few alternate routes into downtown St. Petersburg. From what I understand, these events got off without a hitch traffic wise.

However, I believe several factors contributed to this tragic event. I wrote the following letter to the St. Petersburg Times in response to an article published on Saturday, 31 March 2007:

When this section of Interstate 275 was built in 1977 I believe the exit onto Interstate 375 (Exit 23A) should have been constructed as a right hand exit with access to 5th Avenue North. However, when the interstate was built with the left exit onto Interstate 375 the signage was well marked with advisories and warnings regarding the left exit and the reduced speed limit to 50 mph.

As a result of numerous sign replacement projects including the most recent one in conjunction with a concrete pavement rehabilitation project a while ago the left exit advisory signage - including the yellow "exit only" panel on the bottom of the sign - was replaced with nothing more than a diagrammatic sign without any mention of a left exit advisory. Any warning of a left exit onto Interstate 375 (or its counterpart, Interstate 175) from Interstate 275 today is nothing more than a little post mounted "Exit 50 mph" sign on the left side. I agree, once you are on that ramp onto Interstate 375 it's too late.

There is a similarity between the accident on Interstate 375 at Interstate 275 and the charter bus accident on Interstate 75 in Atlanta: Both exits have minimally marked left exit advisories. Perhaps if the left exit advisories were better signed these tragedies may have been averted.

Yes, the Interstate 375 ramp should have been constructed as a right exit. Having to exit from the left lane is confusing, yet sometimes dangerous. However, the left exit design was planned for in the very first place as Interstate 375 was supposed to continue west to the beaches as an east-west beach expressway but that idea was nixed long ago. The only remnant of this idea is a ghost ramp which can be seen on the ramp from westbound Interstate 375 to southbound Interstate 275.

Yes, the signage for Interstate 375 east from Interstate 275 south (Exit 23A) does not provide for any left exit warning. Back in 1977 when this section of Interstate 275 opened it had signage for Interstate 375 east complete with an "Exit Only" panel for the two left exit lanes as well as side mounted signage warning motorists of the 50 mph speed advisory for the ramp. Thirty years and a few sign replacement projects later the signage was replaced by two diagrammatic overheads and the overhead at the point of exit no longer has an "Exit Only" panel attached to the bottom. The only warning signage that exists today is the small side mounted 50 mph advisory signage on the left side of the exit ramp.

It should be interesting to note that at one point the MUTCD - or the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the book that defines the standards for road signs in the United States - did call for the use of the "Exit Only" panel when you have lanes departing from the mainline highway as part of the exit. The MUTCD was revised a few years ago to eliminate the "Exit Only" panel requirement when the lanes departing from the mainline interstate highway go to another interstate highway such as the junction of Interstate 275 and Interstate 375. I believe the "Exit Only" panel requirement should have been left in place as eve though you are transitioning from one interstate highway to another, you have exited from one interstate highway to begin with.

I believe the Florida DOT should upgrade the signage for both Interstate 375 and Interstate 175 (Exit 23A and Exit 22) from Interstate 275 south stating the fact that these exits are left lane exits and placing better warning signage such as the tipping truck graphic warning sign found in Tampa at Exit 39 (FL 60) from Interstate 275 southbound.

As for the overpass from southbound Interstate 275 to eastbound Interstate 375, work is progressing at a steady pace to get the overpass sections replaced and the overpass open to traffic again around 1 May 2007. Having this overpass open would be a relief for commuters as well as those headed to Tropicana Field as a good alternate route.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

An updated look for!

After so many months of updating the pictures (of course due to the ongoing construction and new traffic patterns) and updating the links and all the other things that go with a website, the updated look for is now online!

This is a much better improvement over the old version, which was unchanged for several months. I know, I got your emails asking me when I am going to update content due to the ongoing construction taking place and the resulting traffic shifts. So, rather than just do the improvements piecemeal I went ahead and gave an updated makeover. Besides, the website needed a good makeover anyway.

As an updated is now online, I would like to ask a little favor of our website visitors: Although I checked the links to make sure they work, if you see a link which is broken or nonfunctioning in any way please by all means report it to me via the Feedback page (select the Report a Broken Link on the first drop down menu) and I will take a look at it and correct it if needed.

In the meantime, please enjoy the updated for 2007 website! I would like to hear your feedback after you take a look - please feel free to reply to this post. Keep coming back to frequently and often - you'll never know something new is there!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Welcome to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog!

Hello and welcome to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog!

Now that we have entered the "blogosphere" we will discussing all things Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area including Interstate 75, Interstate 4 as well as the two downtown St. Petersburg feeder interstates, Interstate 375 and Interstate 175. You can get to the blog either through my regular web page for Interstate 275 Florida at or directly via this URL which will take you right here to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog:

But first, I have one little favor to ask if you reply to any of the entries on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog: Please keep the replies clean as the Interstate 275 Florida website is a family friendly site for all ages.

Make sure to keep checking back on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog frequently and often. You never know something interesting may appear from time to time! Also be sure to visit the web site for all things Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area,!