Many people call it malfunction Junction — the spot I-4 meets I-275.
It’s one of the area’s the Florida Department of Transportation is targeting for a highway overhaul called Tampa Bay Next.
FDOT says I-275 was constructed in the 1960s and can no longer handle the stress of today’s traffic and congestion. About 1,000 crashes occur each year in the interchange, according to FDOT. The proposed improvements for the downtown interchange would address safety and traffic operations.
Neighbors like Chris Vela think it will make things worse.
“The inner change itself has always been the most controversial piece to all of this project,” he said.
Vela lives in Ybor and says it will directly impact his neighborhood.
“We know they’re not thinking about highways right now. They’re thinking about neighborhood streets and roads that matter to them in their backyards,” he said.
FDOT says 85,000 drivers take the I-275 southbound lanes daily, with 30,000 of them bottle-necking in the lane to I-4. Engineers want to add a second lane and say that should open things up.
If you’re heading north on I-275 towards Ybor, the exits would to 14th and 15th street so you no longer have to get onto I-4. Vela thinks the extra lights and increased traffic will eventually become a pollution nightmare.
“I don’t want this to back up even worse and have these cars sticking around with the noise and the pollution,” Vela said.
But FDOT says the exit at the 14th and 15th Streets would allow traffic to be distributed along the local roadways rather than all traffic funneled from the exit to 21st and 22nd Streets with no improvements.
They also say the 14th and 15th Street exit will provide businesses along Nuccio Parkway. Users of the parking garage designated for HCC student, faculty and staff will have more direct access and traffic on Palm Avenue would be reduced by 14 percent between 21st and 22nd Streets and 14th and 15th Streets.
That part of the project hasn’t been funded yet but the Westshore interchange has with Florida Governor Ron Desantis setting aside $1.4 billion last October.
The city of Tampa says the Westshore interchange is a much-needed project that will ease congestion and create connectivity for future alternative transit options between counties.
“I think the mayor and I think some county commissioners really want to have a healthy city and I think that we could get there,” said Vela. “I think transportation is definitely one of the first points that I would start to make a difference in the Bay Area.”
There are two public meetings happening this week:
- Tampa Interstate Study (TIS) Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) Public Hearing February 25, 2020 FDOT Hosted Public Hearing - Session 1 Time: 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Location: Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus, Student Services Building
- Tampa Interstate Study (TIS) Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) Public Hearing February 27 2020 FDOT Hosted Public Hearing - Session 2 Time: 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Location: Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal #6