Commuters struggling with seemingly never-ending construction got a break late last month when the Florida Department of Transportation opened three new lanes on I-275 between downtown Tampa and Westshore Boulevard. The new southbound lanes match the northbound lanes that were reconstructed in 2010 and complete a major part of widening I-275 from SR 60 (Memorial Hwy) to the Hillsborough River. The new lanes reduce the curves and are flatter to reduce the “roller coaster effect.” As part of the project, all exit and entrance ramps between downtown and Westshore reverted back to the right side of the road. Taken together, the new lanes should allow for safer and faster travel between two of the region’s major employment hubs.
The $217 million project will eventually add a fourth lane in the southbound direction and is expected to be completed by late next year. It also provides a wide median that could accommodate express lanes and even fixed-guideway transit in the long term. Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times, MPO Executive Director Beth Alden compared the project to I-4, which also has a wide median for future transit use. “I-275 down to Westshore is now undergoing that same transformation,” she said. “What it does is open the doors to some possibilities for these corridors in the future.”
Also making progress is the Veterans Expressway expansion project, removing the toll plazas and converting the expressway to an all-electronic toll collection system enabling payment without stopping. Drivers will use Sunpass or toll-by-plate. The $266 million project began in 2013 and will also add express lanes the median. The express lanes will use higher toll levels in the peak period to keep traffic moving and bypass congestion. It is being built in stages:
- New ramps at Linebaugh Ave are nearly complete, with southbound ramps due to open this month and northbound ramps opening this summer
- Widening between Wilsky Rd and Gunn Hwy expected to be done this summer
- All-electronic tolling expected to be enacted in June
- Gunn Hwy southbound ramp is underway, with completion expected late 2015
- Widening from Memorial Hwy to Barry Rd is underway, with completion expected by mid-2016
- Barry Rd to Linebaugh Ave is underway, with completion due in early 2016
- Widening from Gunn Hwy to Sugarwood Plaza is getting started and expected to wrap up later in 2016
- Widening from Sugarwood Plaza to Van Dyke Rd is getting underway, with completion expected by late 2017
For more information, contact Rich Clarendon firstname.lastname@example.org at 813/273-3774 x368.