Last stretch of I-275 to get six lanes
By Kyle LoJacono
Commuting between Pasco and Hillsborough counties will get a little easier by the fall of 2012.
That is when the 5.7 miles of I-275 between Bearss Avenue to I-75 will grow from four to six lanes. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Public Information Officer John McShaffrey said the project is needed to help with traffic flow of 52,000 vehicles that move through the area daily.
“The interstate is being widened according to the master plan for the interstate system in the Tampa Bay area, which calls for at least three lanes in each direction to reduce congestion and improve safety,” McShaffrey said. “Finishing this section will complete I-275 widening north of downtown and will also work in conjunction with the coming widening of I-75.”
I-275 was widened to six lanes in the south from around Busch Boulevard to Bearss in 2003. Once finished, the interstate will be at least six lanes all the way into Pinellas County.
There will be periodic lane closures, but all starting no earlier than 9:30 p.m. and ending by 6:30 a.m. The project is federally funded and comes at a $20.5 million price tag. It is being completed by Prince Contracting, which will also be adding devices to help monitor traffic flow including five cameras and 20 vehicle detectors.
“These are tools to help the traffic managers determine the amount and speed of traffic, identify problems such as accidents, breakdowns, items in the roadway, and react accordingly,” McShaffrey said. “For example, if they notice a slowdown in speeds, they can look on the cameras and spot the trouble. If there is a motorist need for assistance, police, fire and/or wreckers may be dispatched to assist and get traffic moving back to speed as quickly as possible.”
There will also be an electric sign to let drivers know what is happening on the road ahead, allowing motorists to make decisions about their travel route.
Just north of the widening project is the job to expand and resurface I-75 just north of the split with I-275 and improve the interchange at SR 56.
The work is taking I-75 to six lanes on the northbound side from I-275 interchange and exit ramp at SR 56 while resurfacing existing road on the stretch of 2.3 miles.
Additionally, a new exit ramp to SR 56 from I-275 is being built. This will eliminate drivers having to shift across several lanes of traffic after the interstates come together heading north.
The $29.9 million FDOT project began in the fall of 2009 and is being built by SEMA Construction. The job is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2012, but McShaffrey said the job is well ahead of that pace
“It is likely this project will finish around eight months ahead of schedule,” McShaffrey said.
The I-275 work is not affected by a recent hold placed on contracts throughout the state by new Gov. Rick Scott, McShaffrey said.
Both the above jobs are preparing I-75 for a future widening from SR 56 to SR 54 to six lanes. That project is not yet funded, but FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said it will happen.
Another FDOT job is building new rest areas on I-75 between SR 56 and SR 54 in Wesley Chapel at mile marker 278. It is being done by Cone and Graham at a cost of $25.1 million.
The two existing stops on the east and west side of the interstate were torn down and are currently being rebuilt. The job began last July and is slightly ahead of schedule of being finished next spring.
The rest areas should reopen to the public by late 2011 (or) early 2012,” McShaffrey said.
The new stops — designed to last for at least 30 years — will include additional truck parking and more space for restrooms. McShaffrey said the department regrets having to close the stops, but says it will be better for people using the interstate once done.
For more information on these or other FDOT project, visit www.dot.state.fl.us.
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