TAMPA — Weekday commuters: this may not be your final warning, but it's close.
At 5 a.m. Monday, the Platt Street Bridge will close for a 105-day repair job.
That means the 34,000 of you who cross the Tampa drawbridge on an average day must find another way to go downtown, and everyone can't squeeze onto the same detour.
The worst-case scenario would be Tampa's own "Carmageddon," a historic traffic jam that locks up streets in Hyde Park and Davis Islands, wrecks thousands of daily routines and has a major impact on Tampa General Hospital.
So officials suggest you think about the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, Kennedy Boulevard or roads farther away than that.
Take, for example, Dale Mabry Highway to Interstate 275, then head to the downtown exit at Ashley Drive. It might be quicker than the detour that starts where northbound Bayshore Boulevard meets Swann Avenue and winds its way through Hyde Park.
"The alternate ways might not be the shortest route," Hillsborough County Public Works Department spokesman Steve Valdez said. "Go a little farther west, go a little north and I guarantee that you'll beat those people taking the shortest route."
If you do decide to take the Hyde Park detour, extra-duty Tampa police officers hired by contractor American Bridge will be on hand to direct traffic.
"The first few weeks, there will be four or five every day because we anticipate that there's going to have to be some educating that has to be done," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
Initially, at least, officers will be at three spots: at Bayshore Boulevard and Swann Avenue; on South Boulevard in front of Gorrie Elementary School; and at Kennedy Boulevard and Plant Avenue.
Officials also plan to adjust the timing of one traffic light on Kennedy Boulevard to help smooth the flow of traffic and to create another northbound travel lane on Plant Avenue by removing some on-street parking spaces.
The Hillsborough County School District knew the repair was coming before the school year began, so none of its bus routes this year cross the bridge. Instead, they use the Selmon Expressway.
"It shouldn't affect our bus routes at all," said district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. No bus stop times are being changed, and students on late buses are not penalized in any case.
The $13.8 million upgrade to the 85-year-old bridge will replace the drawbridge's metal deck and electrical controls, repair aged concrete and steel and recondition or replace the gears and other mechanical parts of the bridge.
While the closure will give drivers a lot to think about, boaters should not have similar concerns. Unless something unexpected happens, the waterway under the bridge is expected to stay open throughout the project.