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Tonight: Hear ideas for remaking downtown Tampa interchange

The Florida Department of Transportation renamed its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan is now known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. [Florida Department of Transportation]
The Florida Department of Transportation renamed its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan is now known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. [Florida Department of Transportation]
Published Sep. 22, 2017

TAMPA — New concepts for rebuilding the downtown interchange will be discussed at a Florida Department of Transportation community meeting Monday night.

Local DOT officials plan to share ideas for the interchange during the second community working group session for downtown and east Tampa that will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk, 111 W Fortune St.

The working groups are part of Tampa Bay Next, the department's overhaul of its highly criticized Tampa Bay Express toll road program.

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The state scrapped its $6 billion plan in 2016 when public outcry built over the phase of the plan to rebuild Howard Frankland Bridge. The department then came back with a new project name: Tampa Bay Next.

In January, DOT started a federal study that will re-evaluate parts of the project, including a controversial segment around downtown Tampa that would impact neighborhoods around the interchange. The supplemental environmental impact study, or SEIS, is expected to be completed in 2019.

Monday's workshop is part of a series of public meetings meant to engage more with affected communities. DOT officials said the goal is to gather community partners and work together on a comprehensive transportation solution for the region.

Express toll lanes aren't going away, but the ongoing working groups will decide whether all 90 miles of toll roads that was originally envisioned for Tampa Bay's interstates are still needed.

Under Tampa Bay Next, DOT is still planning express lanes for the Gateway Connector in Pinellas, the Howard Frankland, I-4 and the Selmon Expressway Connector. Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is adding express lanes to portions of the expanded Veterans Expressway toll road.

But the future of the express lanes planned along I-275, from the bridge through the University of South Florida — including the Westshore and downtown Tampa interchanges — is dependent on the conversations that take place at community workshops, officials said.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.