State transportation officials have big — and expensive — plans for Tampa Bay over the next decade: toll lanes, a new bridge, additional lanes to help ease congestion.
But the shape and scope of those projects has changed, and so has the timeline.
Here's a breakdown each project and when it will start affecting commuters:
Veterans Expressway Managed Toll Lanes
Completion: Spring 2018
The first managed express lanes in the bay area opened along the Veterans Expressway last month. The cost of driving in those lanes is the same as the regular Veterans tolls, however drivers can only enter and exit the six-mile span at specific points. Once they are in that lane, they must stay in it for several miles until the designated exit. The next span, from Gunn Highway to Dale Mabry Highway, is set to open in the spring. Once that happens, drivers will have to pay an additional toll — which rises and falls based on traffic — to use the lanes.
Gateway Toll Lanes
Completion: Late 2021
The first time Tampa Bay drivers will see toll lanes appear on existing free roadways will be along Interstate 275 in the Gateway area. Construction started late last year. The $545 million project will add toll lanes to 12 miles with the goal of saving time for those willing to pay.
State Road 60 Extra Lane
Start: Late 2018
The state will spend $3 million to add a fifth southbound lane to the Veterans Expressway running from State Road 60 to Tampa International Airport to alleviate the messy, and sometimes dangerous, merging and weaving along that stretch.
Interstate 275 Extra Lane in Westshore Area
Start: Early 2019
Drivers who curse the bottleneck at the Tampa end of the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge when four lanes narrow to two should see relief in a few years. The state is spending $25 million to add a third thru lane in each direction from the end of the bridge near the West Shore Boulevard interchange north to the Dale Mabry Highway exit. That third lane is an interim project to bring temporary relief until bigger improvements can come online.
Completion: Fall 2020
The extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway will add a 1.9-mile toll lane to the median of Gandy Boulevard. Once the $236 million project opens in fall 2020, drivers can either use Gandy Boulevard to get to local destinations or the Selmon Extension to connect directly to the expressway from Gandy Bridge.
Howard Frankland Bridge Replacement
The biggest change for Tampa Bay commuters is still years away: the state will add a brand new, eight-lane span to the Howard Frankland. The old bridge was built in 1960 and needs to be replaced. The new mega-bridge will continue to carry four lanes of traffic, as it does now, but will also get two toll lanes in each direction and a bike-and-pedestrian path. This $750 million project was delayed when the old plan to replace a free lane with a toll lane was scrapped because of public outrage. After the new eight-lane bridge opens in 2024, the original bridge will be demolished.
Tampa Bay Next (Formerly Tampa Bay Express)
Tampa Bay Express, the state's plan to add toll roads to bay area interstates, was renamed Tampa Bay Next. DOT will continue to hold meetings to get feedback for a federal study reevaluating toll lanes for the segment of I-275 from West Shore through downtown Tampa north past the University of South Florida. No timeline or cost projection will be available until the study is done in early 2020. Work on the new downtown Tampa interchange could start soon afterward.
Contact Caitlin Johnston at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.