Traffic is everywhere, and it gets worse every year. Community leaders have tried many times to work out plans that could alleviate congestion, provide transit options, and reduce cost to citizens. The Department of Transportation has begun work on a new plan called Tampa Bay Express (TBX).
TBX is a $6 billion overhaul of the Interstate system in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. This eight-part project will fix many choke points and add capacity to the “spine” of Tampa Bay.
Construction on the first major piece will begin soon as they connect I-275 to US 19 by building an elevated highway where 118th Ave runs in Pinellas Park. The other seven parts will fix the major choke points, create transit options for buses in Hillsborough, leave open the possibility of rail across the Howard Frankland Bridge, and add express toll lanes throughout the system.
Here are some highlights of the project:
Gateway Project: This will connect north and south Pinellas with a limited access highway. You could go from downtown St. Pete to Dunedin before seeing your first traffic light.
Howard Frankland/ Westshore/ Tampa Airport Interchange: This would reconfigure and rebuild the interchange to alleviate the bumper-to-bumper traffic on northbound Howard Frankland Bridge.
I-275/ I-4 Interchange: Also known as “Malfunction Junction,” this would increase the size of the interchange to allow more capacity.
Express Lanes: Tolled limited access lanes would give long distance travelers and commuters a more reliable drive through the Interstate system. Charged a variable rate based on traffic, drivers would be guaranteed a minimum 45 mph drive through the area. New lanes would be constructed for this plan, and no existing lanes would be used for this purpose. The current lanes would remain free to use.
No New Taxes: Most transit or transportation plans call for tax increases, or new tax sources. The entire plan will be funded by the gas tax we already pay at the pump, and by revenue generated by the express lanes.
I’m reaching out about this because these issues have the potential to directly impact the growth and strength of the local economy, as well as our quality of life. In order for our area to remain attractive to residents, visitors and the workforce, we must find a solution to our existing traffic problems. It ultimately affects all homeowners, and I wanted to keep you informed.