Here’s a head’s up to those who drive along I-275 to get to the WestShore Business District from downtown Tampa and points east and north, as well as those who routinely use Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Route 61LX.
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, the WestShore Blvd off-ramp from I-275 southbound (Exit 40A) was shut down, and will remain closed for approximately five months (until sometime in May, 2015) to allow the Florida Department of Transportation to completely rebuild the ramp.
This means that commuters who are used to using this exit will need to utilize the Lois Ave/Cypress St exit (temporarily combined with the Dale Mabry Hwy exit, Exit 41A/B). Because this ramp is far earlier than the WestShore Blvd exit, commuters will need to be on high alert to avoid having to travel another mile to get off at Exit 39, the State Road 60/Veterans Expressway/Airport exit, then to loop back around via the Spruce St off-ramp. If you miss that exit, you’ll have to spend another 14+ miles going over and back on the Howard Frankland Bridge.
If you manage to enter SR 60 going north towards the Veterans Expressway, and you happen to miss the ramp for Spruce St, don’t panic. I know trying to change lanes can be a daunting task in this area. Simply take the next ramp to the Post Office/Service Road/Cell Phone Waiting Lot and turn right onto the service road. You’ll come up to a light in front of the Economy Parking Garage, turn right here and follow the road all the way to the next light, which will be O’Brien St and Spruce St. From there, you can turn left onto Spruce, then right onto WestShore at the very next light.
Alternatively, you can follow the loop around Tampa International Airport and follow the signs to enter Spruce St. Either way, this will save you the agony of traveling 14+ miles back and forth over the Howard Frankland.
For HART Route 61LX customers, your trip home from downtown Tampa will remain largely unchanged. However, because buses traveling the P.M. route will be unable to use the WestShore exit, they will be detoured off the Lois/Cypress exit as depicted in the map below. Please keep in mind that this map was made by me, HARTride 2012, and not HART itself. HART has confirmed that no stops will be skipped.
For those using Route 61LX in the morning, the A.M. trip will remain unaffected by this ramp closure, as the on-ramp to I-275 northbound from WestShore Blvd will remain open during this time. I assume however that this ramp will have to close further down the road to allow for reconstruction. Routes 15 and 45 use surface streets and will remain unaffected by this closure. Please keep in mind though that both routes may experience delays due to heavier than normal traffic as commuters get used to the detour route.
Remember, HART offers OneBusAway Tampa, which allows customers to see when their bus will arrive in real-time – via web page, smartphone app, and text messaging. Another helpful resource is the third-party Laicos Bus Finder, currently only available via web page on a desktop/laptop computer (mobile web will not work properly). Simply enter your starting and ending addresses and see where your bus is traveling, and how close it is to your stop.