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Interstate 275 (I-275) in Floridamarker serves the Tampa Baymarker metropolitan area. I-275 measures 63.39 miles (102.01 km) in length.

Interstate 275 and its parent route, Interstate 75, are opposite the normal conventions of freeway routing. Normally, the parent route will go through a metropolitan area while a 3-digit numbered freeway (beginning with an even number) serves as the bypass route; however, in this case I-275 runs through Downtownmarker Tampamarker and St. Petersburg, Floridamarker while I-75 serves as the bypass route.

Its northern terminus is I-75 in Wesley Chapelmarker. It runs south through the northern suburbs into downtown Tampa, then west across the Howard Frankland Bridge through St. Petersburg, then south across the modern Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Both bridges cross Tampa Bay, and the Sunshine Skyway charges a toll. The southern terminus is I-75 near Palmettomarker.

Just north of the Sunshine Skyway in Gulfportmarker, drivers briefly drive on the left side as the freeway's lanes invert for about 1/2 mile (about 1 km) at the US 19/Pinellas Bayway exit (Exit 17).

The only major interchange on I-275 is with I-4, just north of downtown Tampa. Known locally for years as "Malfunction Junction", the interchange quickly became full of daily rush hour backups due to the sprawling growth of the Tampa Bay area and the lack of capacity that the interchange had. In October 2002, a major overhaul of the interchange began. This included roadway widening, bridge work and relocation, lighting, drainage, and signage improvements, and miscellaneous cosmetic work. The project was completed on December 22, 2006.

Route description

On some older street maps (dating around 1970s — early 1990s), I-275 from I-4 to Downtown St. Pete was referred to as the "Tampa Expressway". That name has since faded, for the most part. In November 2005, The Florida Legislature officially dedicated the Pinellas County section of I-275 as the "St Petersburg Parkway/William C. Cramer Memorial Highway". William Cato Cramer was a St. Pete native who served as a member of the Florida legislature from 1955-1971. At some point, he helped shape I-275 through Pinellas County.

Lane configurations

  • between northern terminus and just north of Bearss Avenue (Exit 53) (2 lanes each way)
  • between Bearss Avenue and Howard Frankland Bridge (near Exit 39) (mostly 3 lanes each way)
  • on and south of the Howard Frankland Bridge (between Exits 39 and 30) (4 lanes each way)
  • Between Exit 30 and Exit 16 (3 lanes each way)
    • Between Exits 25 and 26 (4 lanes each way; however, right lane in both directions is "Exit Only")
    • Between Exits 22 and 23A (2 lanes each way)
  • Between Exit 16 through the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (2 lanes each way excluding the toll plazas)


History

Initial construction in Tampa

What would become I-275 (then called I-75W) was first opened in 1962 from the present northern terminus to a diamond interchange at Bearss Avenuemarker. Construction stopped in the area upon completion of this segment and was then stalled for several years thereafter. In the meantime, I-4 was completed from Plant City to 50th St near Ybor Citymarker. The portion I-4 that would later become part of I-275, the Howard Frankland Bridge and its short freeway stubs at the bridge's endpoints, opened to traffic about a year earlier. In 1964, the stub of then-I-4 between 50th St (through Malfunction Junction) and Armenia Avenue was completed. Though Malfunction Junction construction was complete by 1964, the northern end was a pair of ramp stubs that would later be filled in by then-I-75. In 1965, the I-75 segment from Malfunction Junction to about Sligh Ave was completed. By 1967, the remaining gaps in I-4 and I-75 were filled and open to traffic.

Controversy and repeated delays in Pinellas

Around 1970, plans for the Pinellas Countymarker extension of I-75 began. However, the first round of local opposition would lead to the eventual (and repeated) delayment of I-275 through St. Petersburgmarker. The first setback was led by angry 4th Street business owners and residents who demanded that construction on I-75 be stopped since the bridge was already funneling unwanted traffic onto the corridor; it has seen many unforeseen business and residential booms since, due to the building of the Bridge. At the same time, construction began on I-75 from Roosevelt Boulevard to about 38th Avenue N. By this point in time, I-4 was truncated to Malfunction Junction, allowing the I-75 designation take over the freeway from the junction to 4th Street N. This segment was opened to traffic in 1973, with the gap between Roosevelt and 9th Street filled a couple of years later.

Because of a failed effort in the 1970s to convert the Gandy corridor into a freeway, the Gandy Boulevard Interchange is technically incomplete. Two ramps were added in 1979 to eliminate illegal u-turns, but the interchange has not changed since. After some more local opposition, I-275 (as it was finally redesignated in 1973) meandered down to 5th Avenue N, near downtown St. Petersburg, in 1975.

Probably one of the largest setbacks for I-275 was in the mid 1970s when it was proposed to go through southwest St. Petersburg towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Heavy community opposition managed to delay construction for several years. In the end, numerous homes and businesses were destroyed and several churches were relocated. Financial burdens through this part of the project also caused further delays. However, I-375 opened partially to traffic in 1979, with full operation by 1981, and I-175 followed suit in 1980. With both downtown feeders now opened, I-275 was extended to 28th Street S. However, another round of community revolts delayed the segment of I-275 between 28th Street S and 22nd Avenue S. In spite of this, the stretch was eventually built by 1981. Exit 20 was configured for an anticipated westward expansion to a planned Pinellas Beltway. A freeway revolt killed many of Pinellas Countymarker's freeways in the 1970s and (as mentioned above) repeatedly delayed the construction of I-275. In addition, the Skyway Bridge disaster on May 9, 1980, where the freighter Summit Venture took down one of the two spans and killed 35 people, cost the bridge its interstate standards (due to only one of the two-lane spans being operable afterwards) and would not regain it until the opening of the present bridge in April 1987.

In 1982, the segment between 22nd Avenue S and 39th Avenue S was opened to traffic. As mentioned above, the Pinellas Bayway/US 19 concurrency, opened to traffic in 1983/1984, is inverted for about half a mile. The reason to this configuration is unknown. However, to this day, traffic continues to flow smoothly through the interchange with very little congestion. At about the same time this interchange opened, I-275 was complete from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the southern terminus with I-75 in Manatee Countymarker.

With the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opening in 1987, the final link of I-275 (between US 19 and the bridge) was completed and opened to traffic. The northern toll plaza was originally located north of the approach bridge, but was relocated in 2000 due to a lack of capacity. The original plaza only allowed three lanes while the replacement allows six lanes to flow through, with the sixth lane dedicated for SunPass users.

Reconstruction and other improvements

Like all of the Interstate Highways in the US, I-275 is an aging, yet vital link to the Tampa Bay Areamarker. Major staged reconstruction of the oldest segments began in 1999.

The segment of I-275 between the Veterans Expressway and Himes Ave was widened from four to six lanes in 1974. Additionally, a median barrier was built along the highway from Himes Ave to Downtown Tampamarker. Until the 1980s, the Memorial Hwy/Veterans Exwy interchange was only a half diamond and the West Shore Blvd interchange was a full diamond. Both interchanges underwent drastic changes to allow safe, free-flowing movement to and from Tampa International Airportmarker and the Veterans Exwy. Among the improvements, three free flowing exit and entry ramps were added to the expressway from I-275. The exit ramp from I-275 south to the Veterans Exwy northbound was reconstructed and the ramp from Memorial Hwy northbound from Kennedy Blvd onto northbound I-275 was removed, along with the two western ramps onto West Shore Blvd (truncating the West Shore interchange to a half-diamond), in order to deter accidents that were being caused by commuters entering and exiting the interstate from the Veterans Exwy. In addition, connections from I-275 north, to Cypress St were made (though the ramps are under-utilized today). In 2004, the ramp from southbound Veterans Exwy to southbound I-275 was realigned in order to ease congestion on the mainline lanes of the interstate.

In 1984, the Himes Ave exit/entrance was constructed. The exit was originally rumored to supplement a failed redevelopment project in the area during that time. Today, the Himes Ave connection serves as reliever for nearby Raymond James Stadiummarker. In 1991, following the expansion of the Howard Frankland Bridge, the 4th St N interchange was reconstructed. Between 1993 and 1998, I-275 saw very little change, as there were no major projects taking place on the highway. The hiatus ended in 1999, when a much needed, dual-stage, widening project took place between Busch Blvd (State Road 580) and Bearss Ave. The project widened I-275 mainline from four to six lanes, rehabilitated the existing concrete surfaces, and improved interchange flow, lighting, signage, and drainage. The project wrapped up in 2003.

In 2001, the widening project for I-275 between Gandy Blvd and Roosevelt Blvd began. The project increased I-275 from six to eight lanes and existing concrete surafces were rehabilited. A reconfiguartion of the Roosevelt Interchange (Exit 30) started in 2001 and added access to 118th Ave N at the same interchange. The new connection to 118th Ave N is actually the first phase of a proposed freeway to connect I-275 to the Bayside Bridge. All construction in this area was completed by 2002. Phase 2 of the Mid Pinellas Expressway will begin around 2009/2010 with Phases 3 through 6 to follow in the years ahead. The entire project may exceed beyond 2020 before it is completed. Reconstruction of I-275 between Roosevelt Blvd and 4th St N quickly followed the above widening project. Lane counts on I-275 were increased from four to mostly six lanes (with some eight lane segments). The Ulmerton Rd and 9th St N interchanges were originally narrow 1959 configurations that caused much congestion in the area. Additionally, the 9th/MLK St N exit and Ulmerton Rd entrance ramps were situated in the left lane of I-275, causing dangerous weaving patterns. These interchanges were reconstructed into right lane configurations and two new ramps were added from Ulmerton Rd (one leading to 9th St N and one exiting onto southbound I-275. The southbound I-275 exits to Ulmerton and MLK St N were combined into one exit ramp to provide better flow. The MLK St N interchange was shut down fpr several months as a result of the reconstruction. Lastly, the ramps to/from 118th Ave N were opened to traffic. The entire reconstruction project along I-275 in the Gateway area wrapped up in 2005.

In 2003 Operational Improvements began for the notorious Malfunction Junction in Downtown Tampamarker. The project consisted of widening mainline I-275 and I-4, along with an array of ramp/bridge improvements, lighting and drainage work, and new signs. The entire project was completed on December 22, 2006 [119993] with ITS components installed by March 2007. The renovation of the I-4 corridor through Ybor Citymarker (which is nearing completion) is set to wrap up around summer 2007, almost one year ahead of schedule. The only major reconstruction projects left for I-275 within the next five years is the staged reconstruction between downtown Tampamarker and the Howard Frankland Bridge and the widening of I-275 from the US 41 overpass to the I-75 junction in Lutz. The widening project for I-275 in Lutz is already underway for the southbound lanes (and correlates with the ongoing I-75 widening project near New Tampamarker). Widening for the northbound lanes (including possible improvements for the flyover ramp to I-75 northbound) is set to get underway in 2007/2008.

Increased cost of materials delay I-275 widening project.

The staged reconstruction project for I-275 between the Howard Frankland Bridge and Downtown Tampa was supposed to begin in the summer of 2006. Unfortunately, bids received by FDOT for the project came in at $100 million (40%) over the projected estimates. This is being blamed on by the rising cost of asphalt and other materials, which in turn is being partly blamed on the rising oil prices worldwide. As a result, FDOT has commenced with the project in four smaller phases rather than the original, large-scale, two-phase project. Construction began on phase one, the northbound lanes (south of the exisitng interstate) between Himes Ave and Downtown Tampamarker, on August 13,2007. Phase two, which includes construction of the northbound lanes from the WestShore area to Himes, will follow around 2008/2009. The third phase, which may begin around 2009/2010, will consist of transferring northbound traffic onto the new northbound lanes, southbound traffic onto the existing northbound lanes, and the construction of the new southbound lanes from Himes to Downtown. Finally, the fourth and final phase will construct the new southbound lanes from the WestShore area to Himes, which may begin in 2010/2011. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by around 2013 or 2014 and will cost around an estimated $540 million, which is up from the original $350 million budget.

Other Improvements

While staged reconstruction is going on in the oldest, most congested segments of I-275, other major improvements are occurring in other segments of the interstate that do not require a large-scale reconstruction at this time. Such projects include asphalt resurfacing/concrete rehab. projects that span sections of I-275 in both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. Such improvements include the following:
  • Concrete rehabilitation from 62nd Ave N to Exit 17 in Pinellas County. (Complete) 2001-2005.
  • Resurfacing from the Howard Frankland Bridge to Himes Ave. (Complete) 2002.
  • Resurfacing from the US 41 overpass to the I-75 junction in Lutz. (Complete) 2003.
  • Resurfacing from the Howard Frankland Bridge to 4th St N. (Complete) 2006.
  • Concrete rehabilitation/bridge upgrade/lighting improvements from Malfunction Junction to Busch Blvd. (Complete) 2007.
  • Concrete rehabilitation from 26th Ave N to Exit 23. (Currently underway — Scheduled for completion in summer 2008).
  • Rehabilitation @ Exit 28. (Currently Underway — Scheduled for completion in summer 2008).


I-275 in Manatee County

The Manatee County segment of I-275 has not changed dramatically since its construction in 1983, other than a toll plaza upgrade in the late 1990s, and resurfacing of the mainline lanes between the I-75 apex and the US 19 exit. It is unclear if any other improvements are planned at this time.

Exit list

County Location Mile # Destinations Notes
Old New
Manateemarker 0.000 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
2.279 1 2
Terra Ceiamarker 4.656 2 5 South end of US 19 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance
7.8 2A 8 South Skyway Fishing Pier
Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Baymarker
Pinellasmarker St. Petersburgmarker
13.2 13 North Skyway Fishing Pier
16.956 3 16 Skyway Lane, Pinellas Point Drive
17.424 4 17 North end of US 19 overlap
19.453 5 18 26th Avenue South Northbound exit and southbound entrance
19.702 6 19 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
20.377 7 20 31st Street South Northbound exit and southbound entrance
20.698 8 21 28th Street South Southbound exit and northbound entrance
21.680 9 22  – Tropicana Fieldmarker
22.413 10 23A  – The Piermarker, BayWalkmarker Signed as exit 23 northbound
22.442 11 23B Southbound exit and northbound entrance
23.444 12 24 22nd Avenue North
24.470 13 25
Lealmanmarker 25.502 14 26 Signed as exits 26A (east) and 26B (west) northbound
St. Petersburgmarker 27.706 15 28 Interchange was originally designed for the formerly proposed Gandy Freeway.
29.627 16 30 , St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airportmarker No northbound exit to CR 296
30.751 18A 31
30.933 18B 31
31.535 19 32 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Howard Franklin Bridge over Old Tampa Baymarker
Hillsboroughmarker Tampamarker 38.289 20A 39A No southbound exit
38.549 20B 39B , Tampa International Airportmarker Signed as exit 39 southbound
39.445 21 40A Southbound exit and northbound entrance
40.055 22 40B Lois Avenue
40.639 23 41 Signed as exits 41A (east) and 41B (west)
40.909 23C 41C Himes Avenue Southbound exit and northbound entrance
41.978 24 42 Howard Avenue, Armenia Avenue
43.303 25 44 Ashley Drive, Scott Street, Tampa Street – Downtown Tampamarker
43.667 26 45A Jefferson Street Southbound exit and northbound entrance
44.348 27 45B
44.784 28 46A Floribraska Avenue Southbound exit and northbound entrance
45.517 29 46B
46.488 30 47 Signed as exits 47A (east) and 47B (west) northbound
47.539 31 48 Sligh Avenue
48.205 32 49 Northbound exit and southbound entrance
49.081 33 50 , Busch Gardensmarker
50.825 34 51 , University of South Floridamarker
51.589 35 52  – University of South Floridamarker
52.878 36 53
Pascomarker 60.388 Northbound exit and southbound entrance


References



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