I-275 expansion work in Tampa to begin Monday

The $85.3 million project adds lanes from north of the I-4 interchange to Hillsborough Avenue.
Drivers negotiate I-275 Thursday in Tampa. Work begins Monday to add new lanes to I-275 from north of the I-4 interchange to Hillsborough Avenue.
Drivers negotiate I-275 Thursday in Tampa. Work begins Monday to add new lanes to I-275 from north of the I-4 interchange to Hillsborough Avenue. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 21, 2021|Updated Oct. 22, 2021

TAMPA — Commuters on Interstate 275 should prepare for a little construction dust beginning Monday.

The state Department of Transportation and contractor Lane Construction are beginning work Monday to add lanes to I-275 between the Interstate 4 interchange and Hillsborough Avenue.

Crews will add one traffic lane in each direction over the 2.5-mile stretch of highway. The lanes will be built in the existing center median. The $85.3 million project is expected to be completed in early 2026.

The most recent state traffic counts from 2020 — compiled during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic — showed an approximate average of 144,500 vehicles traveling on that portion of the interstate each day.

Related: Tampa's Malfunction Junction fix could come sooner than expected

The expansion is separate from the accelerated work announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis in September that will make safety improvements to the I-4/I-275 downtown interchange, known commonly as Malfunction Junction. The contract for that project is expected to be awarded in May, said David Gwynn, regional transportation secretary.

Besides the new lanes, the work on I-275 includes noise barrier walls along most of the corridor, fencing, Intelligent Transportation System devices and rebuilding of the underpasses at Floribraska Avenue, Lake Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Chelsea Street, Osborne Avenue and Hillsborough Avenue. The new underpasses will provide wider sidewalks and brighter lighting.

Last week, the county’s Transportation Planning Organization — elected and appointed officials sitting as transportation planners — criticized the planned noise walls for excluding the Robles Park area. Gwynn said that vicinity is ineligible for a federally funded barrier wall, but he promised to seek state dollars or other fencing alternatives.

The initial work beginning Monday includes installation of traffic signs, land clearing, erosion control measures and nighttime lane closures to lay out striping and install a temporary barrier wall, said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the state’s regional transportation department.

Work requiring lane closures will occur at night between 9 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., the department said. Interstate ramps may close on occasion between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for overhead sign and underpass work.

Related: Widening Interstate 275 still part of Hillsborough transportation plan

The project has not been without its critics. It is part of what the state calls Tampa Bay Next, which has drawn unfavorable reviews from some residents of Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and elsewhere. The critics, including Hillsborough Commission Chairwoman Pat Kemp, have advocated for dismantling the interstate and replacing it with a ground-level boulevard and an improved grid network of side streets.

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In June, the Transportation Planning Organization voted to remove the future expansion of Interstate 275 between Hillsborough and Bearss avenues from its list of priority projects. That project is not yet funded.