TAMPA — The southbound Interstate 275 exit ramp to Dale Mabry Highway closed early Wednesday, confusing the first wave of downtown commuters.
But motorists and people who live or work in the area gave mixed reviews about what happened with the closing of one of the interstate's busiest exits late the night before.
"It was bumper-to-bumper traffic, and I don't think anyone knew what to do," said Lisa Dickerson, who left Brandon 15 minutes earlier than usual in anticipation of the buildup.
While the new ramp is under construction, drivers are being directed to the Himes Avenue exit. But unlike the Dale Mabry exit, it's on the left-hand side — meaning drivers would have to swing back across traffic for the detour.
"People would realize they'd need to be on the other side," Dickerson said, then they'd attempt to travel across three lanes of backed-up traffic.
"There was lots of honking and anger. It's only going to get worse," Dickerson predicted.
Guido Maniscalco, president of the Macfarlane Park Association and Neighborhood Watch, went out Wednesday about 9 a.m. to see how traffic was faring. It was flowing more smoothly than he had expected, he said.
"I think some people may have gone to the West Shore exit, which is easier to make right and left hand turns," he said.
He saw a few people on Facebook say Himes Avenue was backed up around the lunch hour. The seniors in his association usually avoid the area, instead taking side streets and short cuts.
Maniscalco said that despite the potential for traffic problems, he's glad the construction is happening all at once.
"I'd rather have it done in four months than over an extended period of time," he said.
Several drivers early Wednesday evening said they typically avoid that part of the highway entirely, instead opting for other exits or side streets.
Stephanie Fernandez, 37, drives from Plant City to her job in Tampa. She usually gets off at the Himes Avenue exit but said some of her co-workers were frustrated with their commutes Wednesday morning.
Steve Swann, a local real estate developer, said he hadn't been on the highway but noticed a "huge impact with side roads."
Swann said he was excited for the improvements the project will bring. "This will be huge for West Shore once it's completed," he said.
Zack Peterson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446.