TAMPA — Starting Monday, commuters could face fewer headaches than usual on northbound Interstate 275 approaching downtown.
The state Department of Transportation expects to open four lanes between Himes Avenue and Ashley Drive, giving I-275's bottleneck-weary motorists one more lane than usual.
"There'll be some nighttime work after that, some final striping, cleanup and sodding, but as far as the public is concerned it will largely look like a finished product," department spokesman John McShaffrey said Thursday.
But until the new configuration opens, motorists are likely to incur more than a few migraines.
Workers will finish paving and lane striping this weekend. The department urges drivers to avoid the stretch until it opens Monday at 5:30 a.m.
Starting at 11:30 p.m. Friday and into Saturday morning, northbound traffic will be narrowed to one lane between Himes and Ashley. After that, two lanes will be open for the rest of the weekend.
The $109 million project is set to finish seven months ahead of schedule, McShaffrey said.
The new highway, 5 to 20 feet higher than the existing road, is designed to give motorists a clear view of traffic ahead. Coupled with the additional northbound lane, rush-hour bottlenecks that typically pop up at Dale Mabry Highway and Himes, Howard and Armenia avenues should become just bad memories, McShaffrey said.
"It might be slow because of the volumes, but it won't be stop and go," he said.
About 175,000 vehicles per day travel I-275 between Ashley Drive and the Howard Frankland Bridge.
The next phase of construction — northbound and southbound I-275 from Himes to just east of the Howard Frankland Bridge — is set to start in 2011.