The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District Seven has initiated a Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study for I-275 in Hillsborough County. The study will evaluate I-275 from north of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (SR 574) (MLK Boulevard) to north of Bearss Avenue (SR 678/CR 582).
I-275 is a major north-south interstate that provides an important connection to the regional and statewide transportation network (such as I-4 and I-75) linking the Tampa Bay region to the remainder of the state and nation. I-275 is a Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) highway. The SIS is the state’s network of high priority facilities. The 9.57 miles of express toll lanes on I-275 from north of MLK Boulevard to north of Bearss Avenue in Hillsborough County are critical in order to maintain and improve access to major transportation facilities, as well as enhance mobility within the Tampa Bay area. I-275 is designated as a critical evacuation route in Florida. The need for interstate system improvements within Tampa Bay has been extensively documented in numerous studies, such as the Tampa Interstate Study (TIS), several PD&E studies, and the TBX Master Plan.
This study includes the Build Alternative of express toll lanes but also a do nothing, or No-Build Alternative. As part of the Build Alternative being considered, the express toll lanes on I-275 will:
- Reduce congestion on the existing lanes
- Provide a choice to the user to take a tolled option or stay in the existing lanes
- Provide reliable travel times
- Consistent with local and regional transportation plans
Alternatives Being Considered
The No-Build Alternative assumes that no improvements except routine maintenance would be made to I-275 within the project limits. 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 it would result in increased congestion and user cost. Additionally, the No-Build Alternative is not consistent with local plans. However, this alternative will remain a viable alternative throughout the PD&E Study process.
The Build Alternative consists of providing express toll lanes adjacent to the existing non-tolled travel lanes on I-275. The proposed improvements are part of the Tampa Bay Express (TBX) Master Plan and would maintain the same three general use (non-tolled) lanes. The Build Alternative will provide for one express toll lane in each direction of I-275 from north of MLK Boulevard to north of Bearss Avenue.
The Build Alternative configuration contains one 11-foot express lane, two 11-foot non-toll lanes, and one 12-foot non-toll lane in each direction. The 11-foot express lane would be separated from the general use lanes by a 2-foot buffer. The Build Alternative is consistent with the Starter Project depicted in the TBX Master Plan.
The Build Alternative would utilize the recently widened median between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Yukon Street. North of Yukon Street, minor widening would be required. All of the improvements in the Build Alternative would be constructed within the existing right-of-way.
FDOT underwent an evaluation to identify a series of lower cost tolled lane projects that can be funded in a future FDOT Five-Year Work Program for staged implementation. These initial projects could be incorporated into the Master Plan projects at minimal additional costs. The phased improvements for I-275 are consistent with the Build Alternative; however, they extend only from north of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to north of Busch Boulevard.