In a past blog post, I mentioned how the use of “Managed Lanes” were being discussed throughout the state of Florida and how they’re already in use in Miami. On February 2, 2013, the Florida Department of Transportation unveiled reconstruction plans for Interstate 4 through downtown Orlando which is poised to include the construction of “Managed Lanes” in the center of the highway. Early estimates have the cost of using these lanes at 15 cents per mile, which would increase during rush hour periods. The cost of the project is currently set at $2.1 billion and is slated to begin sometime in 2015, once funding is secured.
What does it mean for us here in Tampa? It means that I-275 through WestShore and I-4 through Ybor could be next on the list to get “Managed Lanes”, which could kill any possibility of seeing commuter rail in the median of the two thoroughfares. Though this FDOT presentation suggests that there would still be room for a rail line in the median, I’m really hard pressed to tell. And as I also mentioned previously, I’m not a fan of seeing light rail in an interstate median either.
If the “Managed Lane” pipe dream was allowed to occur in Tampa, here’s what we could see.
- Managed lanes would likely be constructed along I-275 from US 19 (Exit 17) through downtown Tampa via the Howard Frankland. The segment north of downtown Tampa would likely be a “Final Phase” project due to new right-of-way being needed. This probably won’t sit well for Seminole Heights residents.
- Managed lanes would likely also be constructed along the I-4 median from the I-275 terminus all the way past I-75, and probably into Lakeland, or at least Plant City.
- I-75 could also eventually get the special lanes too, probably between State Road 52 and south of Sarasota.
On top of all this, the Veterans Expressway is slated to undergo a massive widening project that will bring capacity to eight lanes south of Van Dyke Rd, reconstruct several interchanges, and bring forth Open Road Tolling. The project is set to begin later this year and just got a funding boost of $69 million from the state. Later, the southern terminus of the expressway at I-275 will be completely redone, in conjunction of the final reconstruction phase of I-275 through WestShore. Plans are also in the works to redo the Howard Frankland Bridge.
So in all this mud pile of road construction, one has to ask, will we ever see rail? If the transit initiatives in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are able to pass through the many hurdles, then the answer will be YES.
Stay tuned for further updates.