Thursday, April 1, 2010

Get Ready for a Major Interstate 275 Southbound Switch in Tampa!

If you are one of those out there that use Interstate 275 southbound out of downtown Tampa, this blog entry is for you!

According to the folks over at the Florida DOT, starting Friday night (2 April 2010) at around 10 PM workers will begin closing one lane of southbound Interstate 275 from the Hillsborough River west of Ashley Drive/Tampa Street (Exit 44) to Himes Avenue (Exit 41C). About an hour later at around 11 PM, another lane of southbound Interstate 275 will be closed!

These lane closures are expected to severely impact traffic headed south on Interstate 275 towards St. Petersburg. In fact, traffic will be reduced to just one lane – that's right, just one lane to get by – and severe backups are expected as a result of the work.

The work is expected to last into Sunday morning, 4 April 2010. My advice if you are headed to St. Petersburg, Clearwater or Tampa International Airport from downtown Tampa or points east: Avoid Interstate 275 southbound out of downtown Tampa the majority of this weekend!

But don't worry, there are alternate routes to get you where you are going while the work on southbound Interstate 275 is taking place. Here are suggested routes out of downtown Tampa for those of you headed to St. Petersburg, Tampa International Airport or Clearwater:

St. Petersburg: Take the Selmon Crosstown Expressway west all the way to its end at Gandy Blvd. Once there continue west on Gandy Blvd. across the Gandy Bridge into St. Petersburg. Once across the Gandy Bridge continue west on Gandy Blvd. to Interstate 275. I know, there's a toll on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway but it's worth every dollar; if you got a SunPass transponder you'll save even more as toll prices are less for SunPass users vs. those who pay regular cash tolls.

Did I mention SunPass? If you use the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and you don't have one, you may want to consider investing in a SunPass transponder for yourself because the Selmon Crosstown Expressway is in the process of converting to all cashless toll collection. I could go on further but that is outside the scope of this blog entry.

Tampa International Airport or Clearwater: Follow Kennedy Blvd. (FL 60) west – that will take you to either location. Just be aware of the new signage and traffic patterns due to the recently wrapped up airport interchange reconstruction project.

OK. Now what is the purpose of the work that will substantially disrupt southbound Interstate 275 traffic this weekend out of downtown Tampa?

Several months ago northbound Interstate 275 traffic from Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) to the Hillsborough River and Ashley Drive (Exit 44) got switched over from the original northbound lanes that were built in the early 1960's to new northbound lanes. In preparation for reconstruction of the southbound lanes of Interstate 275 west of downtown Tampa traffic will be shifted from the southbound lanes over to the old northbound lanes.

How do we access Armenia/Howard Avenues (Exit 42) and Himes Avenue (Exit 41C) from southbound Interstate 275? That's pretty simple: One lane of the current Interstate 275 southbound lanes will function as an exit ramp for Exits 42 and 41C. However, traffic coming onto southbound Interstate 275 from Exit 42 will enter using the converted southbound lanes.

This means that you have to make your decision for Exits 42 or 41C before downtown Tampa. If in the event you miss this critical exit you will have to travel west towards Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A-B) or Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) and turn around at the interchange. Preplanning will be very crucial as you pass through this area of southbound Interstate 275 west of downtown Tampa.

These lane switches are part of a larger project where Interstate 275 west of downtown Tampa is being reconstructed. This is being done in stages due to the cost of construction. The Florida DOT's Tampa Bay Interstates site has more details on that project.

By the way, if you got caught in the major mess on southbound Interstate 275 this weekend I want to know of your experiences. It's as simple as leaving a comment to share your experiences.