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How could Malfunction Junction be transformed? New videos offer a glimpse of the future.

Four concepts first introduced in 2017 now are illustrated in videos. But they aren’t expected to become reality any time soon.
 
This is an image from one of four videos released recently by the Florida Department of Transportation outlining possible plans for the downtown Tampa interchange. The videos illustrate options for improving the confluence of I-275, I-75 and I-4 through the city. [Florida Department of Transportation]
This is an image from one of four videos released recently by the Florida Department of Transportation outlining possible plans for the downtown Tampa interchange. The videos illustrate options for improving the confluence of I-275, I-75 and I-4 through the city. [Florida Department of Transportation]
Published May 30, 2019

The state has released videos showing four design options for a rebuilt downtown Tampa interchange.

The concepts are not new, nor will any of them become reality in the near future. But the four 10-minute videos provide a detailed look at just how many changes eventually could be coming to these roads, including the interchange snarl known locally as Malfunction Junction.

The Florida Department of Transportation first shared these plans at a September 2017 public workshop as part of a reopened federal study. The videos appeared on the department’s website last week.

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Both options A and B rebuild the downtown interchange, but option B eliminates the toll lanes completely on I-275 north of downtown.

Options C and D also eliminate those toll lanes north of downtown, but neither involves rebuilding the downtown interchange. Instead, they add elevated express lanes from around North Boulevard through N 22nd St. The main difference between C and D is whether the express lanes are built to the north or south of the existing interstate. These two options are also considerably less expensive than rebuilding the interchange, the state has previously said.

Despite releasing these videos, the state’s focus remains on finding money to rebuild the West Shore interchange ahead of its more controversial counterpart in downtown Tampa, said Ed McKinney, DOT program management administrator. Both segments are bundled together in the federal study re-evaluating plans for the area’s interstates. That study is scheduled to wrap up this year, with a preferred option for the corridor from West Shore to downtown presented at a public hearing early next year.

The state hasn’t allocated money to either of these projects yet, McKinney said. But the hope is to get an allocation for the West Shore interchange in the state’s next five-year work plan.

“We’re not trying to get funding for downtown,” McKinney said. “We’re not asking for it. ... We’re laser focused on West Shore.”

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State transportation officials set sights on new West Shore interchange

Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren’t going anywhere

The redesigned lanes were initially part of a $6 billion plan called Tampa Bay Express that would bring 90 miles of toll lanes to area interstates. But significant community backlash caused the state to abandon that plan and rebrand its efforts as Tampa Bay Next.

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That change also included a reversal on the state’s plans to bring toll lanes to I-275 north of downtown toward Bearss. Toll lanes are shown north of downtown in only one of the four design options in the videos.

That choice, known as design option A, is most similar to the original Tampa Bay Next plan. In that option, toll lanes weave through downtown before exit ramps for the express lanes merge with the general traffic lanes around Martin Luther King Jr.

All four plans involve adding a second lane to the exit ramp on southbound I-275 toward I-4 — a well-known traffic headache.

“No one should rely on these visual portrayals as representing the final design of the project,” each of the videos says.

With three of the options, the toll lane focus would shift to Interstate 75. Toll lanes were planned for I-75 under the now-defunct Tampa Bay Express plan, but would become the predominant north-south option in the department’s rebranded Tampa Bay Next initiative.