TAMPA — If you don't enjoy the kind of traffic that makes you want to scream, pull out your hair or, worse, someone else's, then follow our advice:
Avoid Interstate 275 northbound between the Howard Frankland Bridge and downtown Tampa this weekend.
The Florida Department of Transportation is predicting epic traffic jams stretching into Pinellas County as it funnels traffic down to one or two lanes from Lois Avenue to Ashley Drive.
The lane changes are part of a grand scheme to shift traffic from the existing roadway to the interstate's newly constructed lanes.
Department spokesman John McShaffrey says the slowdowns could add an hour to commute times throughout today and Sunday until 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Here's what to expect:
• One or two of the three lanes will close on northbound I-275 from Lois Avenue (Exit 40B) to Ashley Drive/Scott Street (Exit 44).
• The Ashley Drive/Scott Street exit ramps (Exit 44) will alternately be closed until 5:30 a.m. today. Traffic will be detoured to whichever of the two ramps is open at the time.
• Starting today, traffic will be shifted to the new I-275 northbound lanes. Only two lanes will be open until about 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Expect residual backups along nearby local east-west roads such as Columbus Drive, Kennedy Boulevard and Cypress Street.
Use suggested alternate routes, but plan for delays.
By Monday morning, traffic is expected to be flowing on the new alignment in three lanes. But the speed limit between Lois and downtown for the foreseeable future will be 45 mph due to narrower-than-usual lanes and shoulders.