Saturday, April 21, 2018
Transportation

Improvements to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard will test drivers' patience

TAMPA — Commuters crawling through rush-hour traffic in northern Hillsborough County have another 18 months before a construction bottleneck at Interstate 75 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard is finished.

Replacing the interstate spans over Bruce B. Downs — part of a $95 million project to expand I-75 from Fowler Avenue to State Road 56 — started early this year. Construction timetables call for the project to end by the spring or summer 2014, Florida Department of Transportation spokesman John McShaffrey said.

Southbound drivers may get some relief by the spring, when work on one bridge finishes and traffic goes from the current two lanes to three.

But the two overpasses are more unfinished than finished.

"The bridge building is kind of in its infancy," McShaffrey said.

Workers still have to drive pilings and build the southbound bridge, demolish the old northbound span, then build a new, three-lane northbound bridge.

Meanwhile, drivers heading north will continue to use a temporary bridge over Bruce B. Downs built earlier this year.

The DOT also has to complete improvements to Bruce B. Downs at the I-75 interchange when the bridges are complete. And those bridges have to be high enough to accommodate a mass transit route if one ever reaches that area, McShaffrey said.

Between 75,000 and 100,000 drivers each day travel from Wesley Chapel in Pasco County into northern Hillsborough.

Motorists using the interstate between Fowler Avenue and southern Pasco already have endured almost a year of lane shifts, nearly nightly lane closures and traffic-constricting barriers. They still face three more years along parts of that stretch.

The new interstate spans over Bruce B. Downs are one segment of a larger construction project covering 11 miles from Fowler to State Road 56 that started in October of 2011 and won't be complete until late 2015, McShaffrey said.

"The goal is to have three through lanes in each direction all the way to State Road 56. There will be four to six lanes in places, but some of those will be auxiliary lanes or become exit-only lanes," he said.

The widening project is on schedule and hasn't encountered major delays. Even torrential rain from Tropical Storm Debby caused only a handful of lost workdays.

The four-year project also includes a new bridge on westbound Fowler Avenue over the Hillsborough River, along with widening exit and entrance ramps at Fowler and Fletcher avenues.

Ultimately, the DOT plans to expand I-75 to three lanes in each direction to north of State Road 54 in Pasco.

But the DOT work is only part of the construction that drivers around Bruce B. Downs will have to bear.

As the state labors on the interstate and interchanges, Hillsborough County is working to give thousands of drivers along Bruce B. Downs more fender room in a 3.4-mile segment between Palm Springs Boulevard and Pebble Creek Drive.

The project will expand that portion of Bruce B. Downs from four lanes to eight. Work from I-75 to Pebble Creek is expected to end by December, and from the interstate to Palm Springs Boulevard by April, county spokesman Steve Valdez said.

The portion between Pebble Creek and the interstate is the busiest segment of Bruce B. Downs that carries local and commuter traffic.

"A great deal of the people in the Wesley Chapel area take that road to Tampa. They are slammed there," Valdez said.

The county originally budgeted $72 million for the 3.4 miles but the sagging economy provided a break when bids came in $42 million less.

The county will use the savings to jump-start the next portion of improvements to Bruce B. Downs from Bearss Avenue to Palm Springs Boulevard starting late this year or in early 2013, Valdez said. That project will likely take another three years.

"It is the largest project we've done to date," Valdez said. "The reason is, we literally have to move 64,000 vehicles a day."

Comments
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Published: 04/19/18
She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board."Southwest 1380, we’re single engine," Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. "We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to n...
Published: 04/18/18
Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

The other day I had to go to Orlando from Tampa on Interstate 4, which has to be one of the most disliked highways in Florida. And I say this as someone who learned to drive on Miami’s I-95.It turned out to be the same root canal of a trip we’ve come...
Published: 04/18/18
NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

PHILADELPHIA — A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half outside a shattered window showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according ...
Published: 04/18/18
Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned on Monday (April 23), at least 100 people will line the sides of one of the most dangerous stretches in Hillsborough County — 56th Street between Sligh Avenue and Busch Boulevard — in an effort to get motorists...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction costs to tunnel under U.S. 41 in central Pasco could top a half-billion dollars, four times the projected price of building elevated lanes above the highway’s intersection with State Road 54.The cost estimate, said Comm...
Published: 04/17/18
Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

I live in St. Pete and would like to know how I could go about getting a speed hump installed on my street. Where do I start?Manuel Reyes, St. PetersburgThe place to start would be by contacting the St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager,...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

Parker Lake got sick of the rat race. Sick of working in a cubicle. Sick of commuting on Miami’s mean streets. Sick of being overweight from sitting at a desk or in traffic jams.So Lake quit his unfulfilling job, sold his car and moved to a house on ...
Published: 04/09/18
A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

The Brightline train fatally struck a man Sunday, bringing the total killed by the train to six people since it began test runs last year.The Delray Beach Police Department announced on Twitter that a pedestrian was hit Sunday by a northbound Brightl...
Published: 04/09/18
Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Massive new street signals were erected at the intersection of 87th Avenue N. and Fourth Street, just four blocks north from the light-controlled intersection at 83rd Avenue N. At the same time a new WaWa store/gas station is being constructed near 8...
Updated one month ago