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.