What Improvement Alternatives are Being Considered?
The No-Build Alternative assumes that, with the exception of the improvements that are already planned and funded, the existing conditions would remain for I-275 within the project limits and only routine maintenance activities would occur until the design year 2040. The advantages of the No-Build Alternative include no new costs for design and construction, no effects to existing land uses and natural resources, and no disruption to the public during construction. However, the disadvantages of the No-Build Alternative are the project’s purpose and need would not be met and the project would result in increased congestion and user costs. The traffic analyses for this alternative indicates that by the year 2040, a significant portion of the I-275 Corridor would operate below acceptable levels of service. However, this alternative will remain a viable alternative throughout the PD&E Study process.
Recommended Build Alternative
The Recommended Build Alternative consists of providing operational improvements to increase the number of continuous lanes on I-275 to two continuous lanes in each direction along 10.6 miles of the corridor, and to provide toll lanes for the remaining 5.7 miles of I-275. In order to describe the specific types of improvements proposed for the study corridor, I-275 is divided into
- Segment A (from south of 54th Avenue South to I-175)
- Segment B (from I-175 to south of Gandy Boulevard)
- Segment C (from south of Gandy Boulevard to north of 4th Street North)
Segments A and B
The Recommended Alternative consists of providing intermittent widening and restriping of existing lanes to form two continuous lanes on I-275 in each direction. The graphic below illustrates the existing and proposed number of continuous lanes on I-275. The proposed lane continuity improvements will enhance traffic operations by minimizing the number of lane changes occurring on I-275.
The proposed widening of I-275 consists of the addition of tolled express lanes to form the Master Plan and Starter projects described in the following paragraphs.
TBX Master Plan Project
I-275 (Segment C) is a component of the Tampa Bay Express (TBX) toll lanes. As part of the TBX Master Plan, one tolled lane is to be added to I-275 in each direction from Gandy Boulevard to 118th Avenue North. From 118th Avenue North to north of 4th Street North, two tolled lanes will be provided in each direction on I-275 (see graphic below). Access will be provided between the tolled and non-tolled lanes near Gandy Boulevard, at 118th Avenue North, and between 4th Street North and the Howard Frankland Bridge. The express lane typical section generally consists of six non-tolled lanes (three in each direction) and four tolled lanes (two in each direction). A marked four-foot buffer containing traffic delineaters (i.e., vertical PVC posts) separate the tolled and non-tolled lanes.
TBX Starter Project (Staged Implementation)
The FDOT underwent an evaluation to identify a series of lower cost tolled lane projects that can be funded in the FDOT’s Five-Year Work Program. These initial projects could be built within a five-year or less time period and then later be incorporated into the Master Plan projects at minimal additional costs. The shorter-term, lower-cost improvements are considered the “Starter Projects.” The Starter Project improvements in Segment C consist of re-designating the existing auxiliary lanes on I-275 between Roosevelt Boulevard in Pinellas County and SR 60 in Hillsborough County to form a single tolled lane in each direction from south of Gandy Boulevard to the Howard Frankland Bridge while maintaining the same access points between tolled and non-tolled lanes as the TBX Master Plan Project (see graphic below).
A Smart Solution – Tampa Bay Express
TBX is helping change things by giving you an exciting new commuting option. TBX allows drivers who chose to pay the express lane toll a smoother ride to wherever they’re going. All it takes is a SunPass, and then you’re ready to use TBX lanes whenever you like.
A number of ideas have been explored to help reduce traffic congestion, but they are either too expensive or unworkable over the long run (adding more non-toll lanes to our highways). Express toll lanes are the best solution because:
- They can be built next to existing non-toll lanes, making them easy to use.
- They can be maintained through toll collections without the need for tax money.
- Express toll lanes are demonstrated to be an effective solution to urban traffic congestion.
The price for using TBX lanes will vary according to motorist demand: when demand is lower, prices will be lower; when demand rises, so will the price. This is known as “dynamic pricing,” and it is used in the travel industry (hotels, airlines, rental cars), the utility industry (electricity and water), and other industries as well. While prices vary according to demand, it is important to remember that once you enter a TBX lane, the price is fixed at the price you entered. For more information go to www.tampabayexpress.com.