January/February 2009 doesn’t have to be a traffic nightmare…

Let me pull away from the transit scene for just a moment, and let everyone know that even with the numerous events set for late January/early February, that your commute doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here’s some tips to get you where you’re going during the course of the next month or so.

Super Bowl 43 is the big event for early February. As with any Super Bowl game, security around the host stadium is extremely tight and many perimeter roads will be closed. At Raymond James Stadium, where this year’s game will be held, you can expect many roadway closures and traffic and transit interruptions.

· Beginning Friday, January 9, 2009, Tampa Bay Boulevard between Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue will be closed to allow set up of the NFL Experience football theme park. Back in 2001, when the last Super Bowl was hosted in Tampa, the NFL Experience was situated on the north end of the stadium property. This year however, it will be situated on the parking lots just across Tampa Bay Blvd, causing the closure of the roadway. For those of you driving, you will need to use MLK Blvd to the north or Columbus Drive to the south as a detour. HART’s Route 7 is currently on detour via MLK Blvd & Dale Mabry Hwy.

· Beginning Saturday January 31, 2009 at 12:01AM, Dale Mabry Hwy & Himes Ave will close in order to maintain a proper security perimeter around Raymond James Stadium. Commuters wishing to travel from South Tampa to points north of the stadium have several options.

o Use the Veterans Expressway from the west to connect to Hillsborough Ave & Kennedy Blvd.

o Use Armenia/Howard Avenues from east to connect to your destination.

o Use Habana Avenue or MacDill Avenue, closest to the stadium, to connect to your destination.

· For those of you connecting to Drew Park, you may still use MLK Blvd to do so, but expect heavy delays.

· For those of you utilizing the HART bus system, please be aware of the following.

o Due to Federal Regulations, HART is not permitted to provide any special services during the Super Bowl. Instead, private charter companies will provide these services. For more information, click this link

o Between January 31, 2009 and February 2, 2009; The West Tampa Transfer Center will be closed for traffic and security purposes. Routes 7, 32, 36, 41, and 45 will utilize the same detour protocols used during Bucs and USF home games. This also includes transferring at the makeshift bus depot at Gomez Avenue and Saint Isabel Street. However, Route 7 will have increased frequency between Raymond James Stadium and downtown on Super Bowl Sunday from 12:35pm to midnight.

o The TECO Streetcar, and Purple and Green Line Trolleys will also run extended services throughout the weekend. For a flyer of complete route adjustments, click here.

Regardless of where you’re going and how you get there, please expect many delays throughout your trip. Be advised that major construction projects (IE: I-275 & TIA Interchanges) will be on hold during Super Bowl events so that all existing lanes of traffic will be available.

Gasparilla 2009 is going to occur on Saturday, February 7, 2009, a week after the Super Bowl events. One of the key reasons to putting the event after the Super Bowl is because during the 2001 Super Bowl, traffic became a major hassle. The two events on the same weekend caused widespread delays throughout Tampa Bay highways.

As always, be advised that Bayshore Blvd will be closed on parade day. HART bus route 19 will not serve Davis Islands during the parade. If you want to find a good parking spot, arrive early, as many spots are filled by the afternoon.

So whether you’re going to the Super Bowl, or to Gasparilla, or maybe even both; keep in mind that your commute doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Be sure to observe all traffic signs, police, and other drivers. And allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination. If that means catching a bus that leaves an hour earlier than the one you normally take, then do so.

Here’s some more helpful links to help you with trip/event planning.

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