The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducted a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study to evaluate capacity improvements along approximately 25 miles of Interstate 75 (I-75) (State Road (SR) 93A) from Moccasin Wallow Road in Manatee County to south of US 301 (SR 43) in Hillsborough County, Florida. The design year for the improvements is 2035.
This PD&E Study was conducted concurrently and in coordination with the PD&E Study for the portion of I-75 that extends from south of US 301 to north of Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County (WPI Segment No. 419235-3). The findings of that Study, which is referred to in this document as the Northern Study, are presented in separate reports.
Study Purpose and Need
Interstate 75 is a vital link in the local and regional transportation network as well as a critical evacuation route as shown on the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s evacuation route network. As a major north/south corridor, I-75 links the Tampa Bay region with the remainder of the state and the nation, supporting commerce, trade, and tourism. I-75 is part of the Florida Intrastate Highway System (FIHS), a statewide transportation network that provides for the movement of goods and people at high speeds and high traffic volumes. The FIHS is comprised of interconnected limited and controlled access roadways, such as Florida’s Turnpike, selected urban expressways, and major arterial highways. The FIHS is the Highway Component of the Strategic Intermodal System (SIS), which is a statewide network of highways, railways, waterways, and transportation hubs that handle the bulk of Florida’s passenger and freight traffic. As an SIS/FIHS facility and part of the regional roadway network, I-75 is included in the 2025 Regional Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) developed by the West Central Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Chairs Coordinating Committee (CCC). Preserving the operational integrity and regional functionality of I-75 is critical to mobility, as it is a vital link in the transportation network that connects the Tampa Bay region to the remainder of the state and the nation.
A portion of the study corridor, from SR 674 to Big Bend Road, is included in the FIHS 2025 Cost Feasible Plan Update, dated August 2003. Due to the intense traffic growth and high levels of congestion, the remaining portions of the study corridor are proposed to be included in the latest update of the FIHS 2025 Cost Feasible Plan. This project is identified in the SIS Multimodal Unfunded Needs Plan (May 2006) and in the earlier SIS 2030 Highway Component Unfunded Needs Plan (April 2004). This project is consistent with the Transportation Element of the Hillsborough County Local Government Comprehensive Plan adopted in March 2001 and last amended in January 2005. It is also included in the Hillsborough County MPO’s 2035 LRTP Cost Affordable Plan adopted on December 9, 2009 and the Sarasota/Manatee MPO LRTP Needs Assessment adopted on November 28, 2005. This project is also consistent with other similar projects planned along the I-75 corridor throughout the state and provides continuity with these projects. This study is being conducted concurrently with the PD&E Study for the section of I-75 that extends from south of US 301 to north of Fletcher Avenue in Hillsborough County (WPI Segment No. 419235-3). Also, FDOT’s District One is currently completing two PD&E Studies for the widening of two continuous portions of I-75, which when combined extend from SR 681 in Sarasota County to Moccasin Wallow Road in Manatee County. FDOT, District Seven is currently designing capacity improvements to I-75 from Fowler Avenue in Hillsborough County all the way to the Hernando/Sumter County Line.
In 2007, the traffic volumes along I-75 in the study area ranged from 58,000 vehicles per day (vpd) north of Moccasin Wallow Road to 115,200 vpd north of Gibsonton Drive. These volumes included truck traffic that varied from 9.0 to 16.0 percent of the daily volumes. As a result of this high travel demand, several sections of I-75 already operate at congested conditions and levels of service (LOS) worse than the FIHS minimum level of service standard for both “urbanized areas” and “rural areas”, which are LOS “D” and LOS “B”, respectively. Without improvements, the operating conditions along I-75 and connecting roadways will continue to deteriorate, resulting in an unacceptable LOS throughout the entire study corridor. Capacity improvements could also enhance travel safety by reducing congestion, thereby decreasing vehicle conflicts.
According to the crash records for the years 2003 through 2007, obtained from the FDOT’s crash database, a total of 1,562 crashes were reported along I-75 within the project limits. The 1,562 crashes involved a total of 1,035 reported injuries and 34 fatalities. The total economic loss from these crashes is estimated to be approximately $60 million.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducted a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study to evaluate alternate improvements for Interstate 75 (I-75)(SR 93A) from Moccasin Wallow Road in Manatee County to south of US 301 (SR 43) in Hillsborough County. The total project length is approximately 25 miles. The design year for the improvements is 2035.
Interstate 75 (I-75) is the longest Interstate highway in the state of Florida. Starting in Hialeah, just north of Miami, I-75 parallels Interstate 95 for its first several miles, and then turns west along the Alligator Alley toll road to cross the Everglades Swamp. I-75 resumes its northward journey at Naples, just after the interchange with Florida 951. I-75 then serves the Gulf Coast of Florida, connecting Naples with Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Venice, Sarasota, Bradenton, and Tampa. From Tampa northward, I-75 moves away from the Gulf Coast, but it provides the primary route to Atlanta and points north, including the Midwest. I-75 ultimately terminates in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
In the 1958 original plan, I-75 was not slated to extend south of Tampa; the major northsouth freeway was instead planned to culminate its southbound journey in Tampa at an interchange with Interstate 4 (I-4) near downtown. However, it became clear that Southwest Florida needed a freeway connection. To that end, in 1968, the extension to Miami was made part of the planned I-75 network for Florida; it would take approximately 25 years until the route was fully completed to Hialeah. At the same time, I-4’s western terminus was retracted to Tampa, since a proposed extension to St. Petersburg Beach on the Gulf Coast was never constructed.
The objective of this PD&E Study was to help the FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reach a decision on the type, location, and conceptual design of the necessary improvements for I-75 to safely and efficiently accommodate future travel demand. This study documents the need for the improvements as well as the procedures utilized to develop and evaluate various improvements including elements such as proposed typical sections, preliminary horizontal alignments, and interchange enhancement alternatives. The social, physical, and natural environmental effects and costs of these improvements were identified. The alternatives were evaluated and compared based on a variety of parameters, utilizing a matrix format. This process identified the alternative that best balances the benefits (such as improved traffic operations and safety) with the impacts (such as environmental effects and construction costs).
The PD&E Study satisfies all applicable state and federal requirements, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), in order for this project to qualify for federal-aid funding of subsequent development phases (design, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, and construction). Existing rest area facilities for northbound and southbound travelers are situated approximately three miles south of SR 674.
A concurrent PD&E Study was undertaken for the segment from south of US 301 (SR 43) to north of Fletcher Avenue (WPI Segment No. 419235-3; ETDM #8002). This study considered both interim and ultimate improvements; interim improvements may include interchange improvements. The proposed ultimate improvements include widening I-75 to an ultimate configuration of ten lanes with six general use lanes (GUL) and four special use lanes (SUL), along with improvements to all interchanges within the project limits. There are three interchanges along I-75 within the project limits. They are located at:
- SR 674
- Big Bend Road (CR 672)
- Gibsonton Drive
Mainline widening generally occurs within the existing FDOT ROW, but additional ROW will be required for some interchange improvements, slip ramps to provide access between the GULs and SULs, stormwater management facilities, and floodplain compensation sites.