Saturday, January 3, 2015

Westshore Blvd exit (Exit 40A) closure alert

Since this is the first post of 2015, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  Hopefully you got to ring in the New Year happily and safely.

I noticed a variable message alert on the Interstate 275 variable message boards just lately and I noticed that the exit to Westshore Blvd. (Exit 40A) from southbound Interstate 275 is going to close on 8 January 2015 sometime between 12 Midnight and 5:30 AM and remain closed until May 2015, according to Tampa Bay Interstates, the Florida DOT's website for all interstate and highway construction in the Tampa Bay region.  This is necessary so that the new southbound Interstate 275 lanes can be constructed in this area and the ramp to Westshore Blvd. from southbound Interstate 275 can be constructed in its permanent configuration.  You have undoubtedly seen the work on the overpass on southbound Interstate 275 at Westshore Blvd. as it progresses, not to mention the temporary lane shifts necessitating a 45 mph speed limit as you pass through the area.

As the Westshore Blvd. exit is a highly used exit not only for commuters who work in any of the office complexes in Tampa's Westshore district but for anyone staying at any of the hotels in the vicinity of Westshore Blvd. and Interstate 275, not to mention Westshore Plaza including the AMC Theatres Westshore 14 to catch the latest and greatest movies there, if you use this exit on a frequent basis you need to read this as to how it will affect how you will get to destinations in Tampa's Westshore district.  I know, it's going to be an inconvenience for a little bit but you will see a much improved Interstate 275 in the end.

I have seen a lot of progress on the southbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa of lately.  I think the goal is to get these southbound lanes opened as soon as possible so that the contractor can get started on getting the northbound lanes constructed, especially in the area around the Dale Mabry Highway (Exits 41A/B, US 92) interchange.  (In fact, just recently I have seen backups into the northbound Interstate 275 mainline of motorists exiting northbound Interstate 275 at Dale Mabry Highway in order to get to Raymond James Stadium for events taking place there).

The detour for Westshore Blvd., according to Tampa Bay Interstates, is for motorists to take the right hand exit for both Dale Mabry Highway and Lois Avenue, which is reached from a single exit location just before the left hand exit for Himes Avenue (Exit 41C).  Follow the signage in order to reach Lois Avenue; actually you will exit onto Cypress Street rather than Lois Avenue.  Once on Cypress Street proceed west on Cypress Street past Lois Avenue for about a half a mile to Westshore Blvd.

When the Westshore Blvd. exit from southbound Interstate 275 closes temporarily, please keep in mind the following exits from southbound Interstate 275 in Tampa from downtown Tampa to FL 60/Tampa International Airport that are open (this is subject to change as construction on Interstate 275 progresses):

Exit 42, Armenia/Howard Avenues (temporary left exit - use left lane)
Exits 41A-B and Exit 40B, Dale Mabry Highway and Lois Avenue (via Cypress Street)
Exit 41C, Himes Avenue (temporary left exit - use left lane) 
Exit 39, FL 60 to Tampa International Airport, Clearwater and FL Toll 589/Veterans Expressway

If you miss Exits 41A-B (Dale Mabry/Lois via Cypress) and you do not want to have to cross the Howard Frankland Bridge to have to make a U-turn at Exit 32, 4 St N in St. Petersburg, use Exit 39 and you can go through Tampa International Airport (follow the signs for the terminal and airport exit). 

Overall, the entire maze of temporary lanes, 45 mph reduced speed limits and temporary lane shifts on Interstate 275 in Tampa between Kennedy Blvd. (Exit 39, FL 60) and downtown Tampa at the Hillsborough River should be history by sometime in 2016 when all is said and done.  We'll have not only a wider Interstate 275 to travel on, but wouldn't it be nice to see a commuter rail line in the center?  After all, Interstate 275 in Tampa is being reconstructed to accommodate a commuter rail line sometime in the future; after all, the Tampa Bay region needs commuter rail if it wants to be competitive with Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando which already have commuter rail systems.