Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa International Airport interchanges will be easier to navigate

Cars streak past the Westin Tampa Bay hotel last week, traveling on the newly completed interchange of State Road 60 and Memorial Highway near Tampa International Airport. The photo is a time exposure.


Cars streak past the Westin Tampa Bay hotel last week, traveling on the newly completed interchange of State Road 60 and Memorial Highway near Tampa International Airport. The photo is a time exposure.

TAMPA — From the air, it looks like a pile of noodles. Ramps twisting and splitting, flyover lanes soaring, highways going this way and that.

But the dizzying network around Tampa International Airport is finally becoming a manageable interchange, the product of a $215 million project wrapping up after four years of planning and construction.

"Before, it was a mess. You couldn't even move," said cab driver Emmanuel Anbroise, 47, waiting on passengers outside Tampa International. "It's very much better than it was."

It started in August 2005, perhaps the biggest project in the Tampa Bay area since the new Sunshine Skyway. It would link Interstate 275 to the south with the Veterans Expressway to the north and the Courtney Campbell Parkway to the west.

Officials promised motorists would be able to navigate the massive interchange with no more than two lane switches.

Department of Transportation records show that more than 160,000 cars typically travel the airport interchange every day. It was imperative that the roads remained accessible, especially around the busy West Shore business district, said DOT spokesman John McShaffrey.

With the airport smack in the middle of the whole thing, the DOT had to be aware of flight times. And no bright lights could be allowed near the runway, creating a hazard for pilots .

For months, the rebuilding caused confusing changes — detours, lane closures and exits switching from one side of the highway to another.

"That was probably the toughest thing to deal with," McShaffrey said of the exit changes. "But the alternate is shutting down roads for days, months or even years."

That ended on Tuesday.

One more lane out of the airport will open before Christmas, and several final touches such as painting, resurfacing and landscaping will be completed in the next few months.

"We don't get stuck in traffic like we used to," said cab driver Claudy St. Louis, 36, waiting on passengers outside TIA.

Across the interchange, off State Road 60 west toward Clearwater, Donna Vallin parked her car at the Waterford Plaza on Rocky Point Drive, where she works.

Vallin smiled as she walked from the parking garage, noting that the commute from her Westchase home was nearly cut in half by the new traffic patterns.

"It was much needed," she said. "It keeps everyone separate. It was all that crossing over that was dangerous."

Down the road, catering manager Steve Gurgold was outside the Rusty Pelican restaurant, getting ready for the day's customers. He drives from Sarasota every day, taking I-275 over the Howard Frankland Bridge, and he likes having a more direct route into town.

"You don't have to worry about people veering into your lane. That was really hellacious for a while," Gurgold said.

He's not the only one who felt that way. Any time the restaurant hosted events for people unfamiliar with the area, he overheard the same complaint: The route to get here sure was a mess.

"Hopefully, this will alleviate all of that," he said.

Of course, with so many out-of-town travelers from the airport navigating the area, confusion will always be an issue, McShaffrey said.

He cautioned against relying on GPS systems, which may not be updated with new roads. Just pay attention to where you're going, watch the signs, and the new setup should make a big difference, he said.

The end of this project, however, will not bring a reprieve from road construction.

The DOT has its sights on other improvements around the new interchange, including rebuilding I-275; improving the interchange at SR 60 and I-275; and lengthening the SR 60 exit from the Howard Frankland.

Those plans have not been funded, but DOT is prepared to break ground whenever possible.

"All of the interstate system is a puzzle,'' McShaffrey said, "and we're building pieces of it all the time."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at or (813) 226-3386.

Tampa International Airport interchanges will be easier to navigate 12/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 11:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  3. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  4. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward


    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  5. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection


    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, Frinzi’s brother, died at the hospital.