Tonight, FDOT hosts a Tampa open house to discuss I-275 expansion

The open house is available in person and online.

click to enlarge I-275 in Tampa, just west of the I-275/I-4 interchange. - Noah Densmore/Adobe
Noah Densmore/Adobe
I-275 in Tampa, just west of the I-275/I-4 interchange.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 7 will host  a public information open house tonight to discuss their plan to expand Interstate-275 and the downtown interchange, which has met widespread community opposition in recent years.

The open house will be held tonight, Jan. 5, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library located at 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. A virtual option is also available and requires pre-registration.

In a press release sent less than 24 hours before the meeting, FDOT said that public participation is encouraged as it discusses the projects.

The I-275 "Capacity Improvement Project" aims to add another lane to both sides of the interstate and runs along I-275 from Interstate-4 to north of Hillsborough Avenue. FDOT says all of these changes are planned to be completed within the existing right of way on the interstate.

The Downtown Tampa Interchange (I-275/I-4) Safety and Operational Improvement Project is anticipated to begin construction in 2023.

The project includes:
  • Widening the southbound I-275 to eastbound I-4 flyover ramp to two lanes.
  • Widening the westbound I-4 to northbound I-275 ramp from one to two lanes, and widening the westbound I-4 to southbound I-275 exit from two to three lanes.
  • Providing trail connections to local networks and adjacent communities.
  • Modifying the exit ramp to Ybor City/East Tampa from 21st/22nd Streets to 14th/15th Streets
Other adjustments the FDOT will discuss include constructing noise barrier walls along most of the corridor, installing Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) devices, and enhancing the underpasses at Floribraska Avenue, Lake Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Chelsea Street, Osborne Avenue, and Hillsborough Avenue to provide wider sidewalks and upgraded lighting.

During the event, display boards and exhibits will display the plans for the project and FDOT staff will be available to answer questions from the attendees.
Expansion of I-275 and the downtown interchange have met opposition from the community over recent years. Since 2015, Sunshine Citizens, a transportation advocacy group, has pushed back against FDOT's plans to expand the interstate. The group has argued that expanding the interstate does not actually fix the problem of traffic as population growth increases. Meanwhile, interstate expansion historically harms communities of color, and historic districts

A movement called #BlvdTampa has argued that turning the interstate into a boulevard would be more efficient than continuing to expand a dysfunctional interstate.

In a 2019 report by the Congress for the New Urbanism called “Freeways Without Futures”, I-275 was been named among 10 of America’s worst highways.
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