Advertisement
  1. Transportation

Demolish I-275? One expert offers a 'dream' alternative

Viewed from the southbound lanes, traffic in the northbound lanes of I-275 in Tampa slow to a crawl on Wednesday evening, Jan. 20, 2016. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
Published Apr. 23, 2017

TAMPA — If some Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights residents had their druthers, the state would simply demolish Interstate 275, which now severs their neighborhoods.

Loud, sustained applause and shouts of "Yeah," from nearly 100 people greeted just such a proposal Tuesday.

"Tear it down!" said Joshua Frank, an urban planner who wrote his Master's degree thesis on an alternative to the controversial highway expansion program called TBX (short for Tampa Bay Expressway).

Frank has been studying the issue for more than a year and is the vice president and president-elect of the Urban Charrette, a non-profit group that educates and collaborates with communities to educate them about urban design best practices.

His presentation, "Bifurcation to Boulevard", showed how transforming the Interstate into a wide, landscaped boulevard, featuring bike and pedestrian paths and even light commuter rail, would transform the area north of Tampa's downtown core.

Frank described the current north-south highway as primarily a local expressway for people living and working between the University of South Florida (USF) and downtown Tampa.

Less than 35 percent of the vehicles that traverse the roadway are from outside the area, according to Frank.

"It is expendable," he said, arguing that over the past 50 years, I-275 has severely damaged neighborhoods, polluted their air, raised noise levels well beyond acceptable standards, and lowered property values.

"Reintegrating" the neighborhoods now split by the six-lane roadway would improve their quality of life and lead to a rapid and sustained increase in economic activity, according to Frank.

Calling his plan a "dream scenario", Frank said turning I-275 into tree-lined boulevard similar to the Champs-Élysées in Paris or the Embarcadero in San Francisco would "make it better for all of us."

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had no comment on Frank's proposal.

Instead, the agency is continuing to plan for the Interstate expansion that would result in demolishing yet more of the neighborhoods' homes and businesses FDOT needs to build future toll lanes.

On Wednesday, FDOT spokesperson Kristen Carson characterized TBX is a "major interstate improvement program to modernize key interchanges, replace aging infrastructure, and improve mobility on portions of I-275 and I-4".

She stressed FDOT is "taking the time" to respond to community concerns.

Planning for TBX is now proceeding at a slower pace, dubbed a "reset", in reaction to the neighborhood's strong opposition to the expansion. A series of community meetings are planned to begin by the end of May.

Kimberly Overman, president of the Heights Urban Core Chamber which sponsored Tuesday's community meeting, is cautiously optimistic that FDOT might consider Frank's proposal to demolish I-275.

"They had at least 10 people here," she said. "They are very interested. What boulevards do is open up opportunities."

She also pointed to a trip to St. Louis that FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) organized for local residents, elected officials and agency representatives.

Area transportation projects there involved extensive participation by the public and resulted in a combination of highways and transit.

Eight Tampa residents reported their impressions of the Missouri program at Tuesday's meeting.

"Missouri started with people and neighborhoods and asked what they wanted. FDOT presented us with a baked cake and the only questions were where do we want to plant the palm trees," said Rick Fernandez, president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association.

Pat Kemp, a Hillsborough County commissioner and 30-year resident of Seminole Heights, called on fellow residents to "stay engaged."

She called I-275 a "sprawl machine for Pasco County developers."

Contact Sheila Mullane Estrada at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. In this Feb. 23, 2015 photo, a car is hauled from a canal in West Palm Beach, Fla. The driver was taken to a local hospital where he died. Palm Beach County has over 300 miles of canals, built to move water. Since 1997, 181 people have drowned in vehicles that ended in canals. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP) LANNIS WATERS  |  AP
    Of the nearly 1,100 people nationwide who died from 2013 to 2017 when vehicles went into water, 1 in 6 died in Florida.
  2. Dr. Daniel P. Greenwald, a well-known Tampa plastic surgeon, died on Oct. 5 when his twin-engine plane crashed soon after taking off from Kokomo Municipal Airport in Indiana. Greenwald family | Tim Bath/The Kokomo Tribune via AP
    An employee at the Kokomo Municipal Airport said Dr. Daniel P. Greenwald told him he wanted jet fuel for the Piper Aerostar. A friend says there’s no way he would have knowingly done so.
  3. Rekira Owens, a bus driver with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, greets officials from behind a newly installed shield as they board a bus Thursday in Tampa. The clear divider is meant to protect drivers from physical assaults after a driver was killed in Tampa this year. CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The two transit agencies took action after a Hillsborough driver was stabbed and killed by a rider earlier this year.
  4. A car on the south side of Cleveland Street at Osceola Avenue on Tuesday in downtown Clearwater. That block of Cleveland Street, which ends at Fort Harrison Avenue, provides 16 short term metered parking spaces, at left and right.
    The change to the new system will be gradual.
  5. The Florida Department of Transportation originally closed the southbound I-275 ramp to northbound I-75 for 10 months to replace the entire bridge deck of the overpass, but it's taken more than a year to complete. A detour was created that will have drivers exit on the US-41 exit to take that road to College Avenue where drivers can get back to I-75.
    When the project originally began on July 29, 2018, the Department of Transportation projected it would take 10 months to complete. A year and change later, some readers don’t see an end date in...
  6. Delta will offer nonstop flights between Tampa and Seattle in March 2020. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)
    The daily flights expand Tampa International Airport’s connections to the Pacific coast.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    Axel R. Figueroa was headed south on U.S. 41 when he left the road, overcorrected and collided with a tree, the Highway Patrol said.
  8. Pinellas County officials are focusing on reducing congestion, improving safety and enhancing transit as they consider more than $400 million in transportation projects. They're also looking at how to pay for it all, and the options include tax increases. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A sales tax, a property tax and a gas tax are among the options as officials consider a wish list totaling more than $400 million.
  9. Traffic heads west along Interstate 275 (at right) toward the Howard Frankland Bridge in Tampa. TIMES (2017)  |  Elliott, Loren
    Hillsborough Commissioner Pat Kemp was caught in the mess. Now, the state is smoothing the path to I-275.
  10. St. Pete Beach will offer free shuttles to Pass-a-Grille. St. Pete Beach
    The service will replace PSTA buses south of the Don Cesar hotel
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement