Update: FDOT postpones public hearings on Howard Frankland bridge replacement

northbound Howard Frankland Bridge

Traffic flowing northbound on I-275 into Tampa.

UPDATE, 10/3: The Florida Department of Transportation has postponed both the Tampa and St. Petersburg hearings to a later date and has announced it will not convert the auxiliary lanes to express lanes on the bridge. We will provide more information on the rescheduled hearings as it becomes available.  

An average of 72,500 vehicles each day cross the northbound span of the I-275 Howard Frankland bridge from Pinellas County into Tampa. Unsurprisingly, many of our Pinellas residents are deeply invested in the proposed Florida Department of Transportation replacement of the northbound span of the bridge.

FDOT is holding two public hearings about the bridge replacement in the next several days that we encourage interested residents to attend. The first will be in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, 950 Lake Carillon Drive, St. Petersburg, FL 33716. The event will be an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a formal presentation at 6:30. On Thursday, Oct. 6, FDOT will hold another public hearing at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33607. That event is also from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with a formal presentation at 6:30.

Forward Pinellas is on record as supporting this project. A majority of our board voted in June to support the Tampa Bay Express (TBX) construction, of which the Howard Frankland northbound bridge replacement – and the three continuous lanes with a toll lane also included – was a part.

Our board’s support of this project was based on certain elements that we believed would improve transportation regionally and for this county’s residents and workforce, including the following:

  • The project will address the bottlenecks that occur on the eastbound approach to Tampa by adding interchange improvements and new exit lanes to Tampa International Airport and Kennedy Boulevard.
  • While a lane currently open to all traffic on the bridge is being taken for the toll lane in the new project, traffic jams on the Howard Frankland bridge do not occur due to the road being too narrow – they occur because of the bottlenecks from lanes dropping and merging traffic at the interchanges on either end of the bridge. Under the new plan, three continuous non-tolled lanes, in addition to one toll lane, will go from the Pinellas side of the bridge into downtown Tampa, where only two continuous lanes currently do. This means that vehicles will not have to merge from four lanes down to two lanes, as is the case today.
  • The toll funding will help to accelerate the construction of the TBX project to resolve those critical bottlenecks, in addition to the I-4/I-275 downtown interchange.

While that rationale remains the same as it did in June, this is one of the most significant transportation projects to ever happen in our region, and as such, it deserves close public examination. There are many details that still need to emerge regarding the role regional transit service will play in this corridor, and we will be sharing information with the public as it becomes available. This project addresses a clear need now and opens the possibility to address another clear need – mass transit – in the future.

We look forward to being in attendance at both FDOT public hearings to hear your questions, and working with FDOT to get answers to them.

2 Responses to “Update: FDOT postpones public hearings on Howard Frankland bridge replacement”

  1. Neil McMullen

    As a member of Forward Pinellas (MPO) Citizen Advisory Council I was surprised by the Howard Franklin presentation last week. First, what we saw and heard, the “reduced lane” bridge configuration, we saw for the first time. Second, this different configuration was, apparently, made public with little prior vetting. I attended two public gatherings in the last year and a half. These were not the only public hearings and all were announced with great fanfare. Local electeds and MPO personnel went to effort and expense attempting to secure public “buy-in.”

    The lane reduction, especially eastbound to Tampa, can only work if FDOT simultaneously re-configures the Tampa landing from the Mariner area to Lois Ave.; the TIA/Kennedy-Westshore exits daily back up to 2 miles onto the bridge. This causes (snd is caused by) extraordinary jockeying and cutting for position regardless whether motorists are exiting for these destinations or moving theough to points east. The single lane carrying traffic to the airport AND the uncoordinated signals eastbound on Kennedy from Gardinia to Westshore to Lois to Dale Mabry are almost entirely to blame for the bottleneck on the bridge.

    IF (and that is a very big IF) the conditions at Kennedy and TIA exits were corrected, three (3) lanes might be workable until such time as the Tampa Bay area musters the political will to put down tracks on this “new” span proposed to go in north of the westbound 1980s span.

    We were given to understand by the FDOT representative that should the day come when “premium transit” ie: rail is approved, a THIRD span would be proposed to absorb ALL the rubber tire traffic now destined for the 2018 span, thus there would be a northside lying rail bridge (the present 2018 span) plus two spans for east and west bound rubber tire traffic.

    Regardless what lies in the future and the political outcomes of rail proposals, a “three laner” plus a “Lexus lane” seems a poor and ultimately unworkable solution UNLESS extensive work is done to open the Tampa side HF bridge landing and uncork the bottleneck. In my opinion only then will the proposed “non-Lexus”/unwilling to pay three (3) lanes be satisfactory for the taxpayers who are due adequate public roadways (which are paid for by ALL citizens) for equal access and use by all.

    Reply
  2. Karen Mullins

    I concur with Neil McMullen. As a Forward Pinellas-CAC (MPO-CAC) member, I was stunned by the FDOT’s presentation of the ‘new’ Howard Frankland Bridge. Not only did it completely redesign the project, it eliminated 2 lanes to include Premium (Lexus) Lanes and there by eliminating 2 lanes. The original plan was to erect an additional bridge to accommodate mass transit.

    The Tampa Bay Expressway project was sold to the public to have a heavy emphasis on multi-modal transportation. We are being presented with NO other mode of transportation other than automobile. The cost of this ENORMOUS project should include the FDOT funding the missing mass transit features.

    Truly hope that the State will work on appropriations to include mass transit funding and back off on the premium lane designs.

    Costly decisions are being made for the citizens. Please hear us.

    Reply

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