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.