The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), District Seven has initiated a Project Development & Environment (PD&E) Study for I-4 in Hillsborough County and Polk County. The study will evaluate I-4 from east of 50th Street to the Polk Parkway (SR 570).
I-4 is a major east-west interstate that provides an important connection to the regional and statewide transportation network (such as I-275, I-75, and the Polk Parkway) linking the Tampa Bay region to the remainder of the state and nation. I-4 is a Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) highway. The SIS is the state’s network of high priority facilities. The 22.1 miles of express toll lanes on I-4 from east of 50th Street to the Polk Parkway in Hillsborough County and Polk County, are critical in order to maintain and improve access to major transportation facilities, as well as enhance mobility within the Tampa Bay area. The FDOT has designated I-4 eastbound from Tampa as one of seven one-way evacuation routes 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 Recommended Build Alternative of express toll lanes but also a do nothing, or No-Build Alternative. As part of the Recommended Build Alternative, the express toll lanes on I-4:
- Reduces congestion on the existing lanes.
- Provides a choice to the user to take a tolled option or stay in the existing lanes.
- Provides reliable travel times.
- Are 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-4 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 the project 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.
Recommended Build Alternative
The Recommended Build Alternative consists of providing express toll lanes adjacent to the existing non-tolled travel lanes on I-4. 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 Recommended Build Alternative will provide for two express toll lanes in each direction of I-4 from east of 50th Street to the Polk Parkway.
The Recommended Build configuration allows for two 11-foot express lanes, two 11-foot non-toll lanes, and one 12-foot non-toll lane in each direction. The two 11-foot express lanes would be separated from the general use lanes by a four foot buffer. This typical section accommodates the 44 foot transit envelope referenced in the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, that was approved by the Federal Rail Administration.
However, there are some areas where maintaining a 44-foot minimum transit envelope with Express Lanes cannot be accommodated without the acquisition of additional right of way. In order to minimize this potential right of way impact, elevating the transit corridor in order to accommodate both modes of transportation is proposed. For instance, in the Plant City area where there are service roads, the transit corridor would be reduced to 16 feet. This will allow for a pier to be placed in the center for an elevated transit corridor as depicted.
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 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 shorter-term, lower-cost improvements are considered the “Starter Projects”. The Starter Project improvements are consistent with the Recommended Build Alternative from east of 50th Street to Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard. However, there will be only one 11-foot express lane with a 4-foot buffer in each direction of I-4 from Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard to east of Mango Road.