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Bridge set to ease traffic flow Friday

NEW TAMPA — The quagmire on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is scheduled to loosen up significantly Friday when the state's flyover carries its first traffic onto Interstate 75.

The new bridge is to open between midnight and 5 a.m. Friday, said John McShaffrey, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

But he added one if. Before the flyover opens, the weather must cooperate enough for PCL Civil Constructors Inc. to apply a final layer of asphalt at the top of the bridge's approach ramp to southbound I-75.

"We just don't have our crystal ball out," McShaffrey said Monday.

Overall, the $42-million project still won't be complete. Until the end of summer, the flyover will carry only one lane of traffic because new merge ramps onto I-75 aren't ready for two, he said.

"It's going to be that way at least for a couple of months," McShaffrey said.

Also, northbound drivers on Bruce B. Downs will continue to enter southbound I-75 on their old ramp. A new ramp and a retooled intersection eventually will carry them under the flyover before they veer right to merge onto the interstate.

Those changes are expected by the end of the year, McShaffrey said. PCL must finish the project by next spring, but gets a $1-million bonus if it's done by year's end, he said. Dry weather and minimal changes have helped.

"They're on track to do that," McShaffrey said.

Friday's bridge opening will force thousands of veteran commuters to jettison old habits. Drivers heading to southbound I-75 from southbound Bruce B. Downs will have to exit to the right to climb the flyover, instead of to the left at a traffic light.

Those who miss the change and look for their old turn lane will find it blocked by barrels on Friday and a barrier wall later, McShaffrey said.

They'll have to drive farther south and make a U-turn to reach Bruce B. Downs.

"They'll probably only have that problem one time," McShaffrey said.

Times staff writer Dong-Phuong Nguyen contributed to this article. Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.

Bridge set to ease traffic flow Friday 07/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 10:56pm]
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