The Ghosts of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg
(or the Ghost Ramps, Iíd say?)
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Every so often when you travel on an interstate highway you may find the occasional ramps that go nowhere and you are probably asking yourself where would these ramps go to? Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg is no exception.
Over the course of the fifteen years Interstate 275 through St. Petersburg was constructed in segments there were other expressways planned for the St. Petersburg area. Unfortunately these planned expressways were never constructed; however, if these expressways were built as planned it would have somehow alleviated the congestion seen in the St. Petersburg area, especially the Monday through Friday rush hour. The end result of the expressway planning as evidenced on Interstate 275 are its ghost ramps, or ramps to nowhere.
There are three locations on Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg where you can find these ghost ramps: Exit 25 (38 Av N), Exit 23 (Interstate 375) and Exit 20 (31 St S). Details of these locations are discussed in the next few paragraphs that follow. Finding and interpreting these ghost ramps can be hard at first, but when you pass by these locations you can better understand for yourself why a particular ghost ramp is there.
You and I know when you pass by the 38 Av N exit on Interstate 275 itís a complete entry and exit. But a ghost ramp? You may think that there is no ghost ramp there, but if you are traveling on Interstate 275 over 38 Av N, you will notice that the median strip is much wider at the point where Interstate 275 actually crosses 38 Av N, which I feel qualifies for ghost ramp status. Why?
At one point when Interstate 275 was under construction in the early 1970ís at 38 Av N there was planned an expressway which would have probably connected with Interstate 275 at where 31 St S (Exit 20) is now. This expressway was planned as a bypass route, which may have connected with the proposed Pinellas Expressway. The wide space in the median at 38 Av N would have probably been to accommodate the entry and exit ramps for this planned bypass expressway route.
Unfortunately this expressway was never built; I am not sure why it did not get built to begin with. I think by today's standards a connector with southbound entrance and northbound exit ramps on Interstate 275 at 38 Av N running alongside Haines Road to US 19 and interconnecting with US 19 would be ideal.
Plans were being made for the construction of a cross St. Petersburg expressway which would have taken travelers to the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg as well as the beaches and it would have made an excellent choice for commuters as well as beachgoers alike. However, these plans did not come to fruition and the only evidence of this planned expressway is a ghost ramp from Interstate 375 westbound to Interstate 275 southbound.
As you prepare to exit Interstate 375 westbound to go south on Interstate 275, off to the right just before you go under Interstate 275 is the ghost ramp marked with three red diamond end of roadway markers. This would have marked the beginning of the planned expressway to the beaches, which I think should have been built if the bypass expressway mentioned earlier was not built.
Last stop on our ghost ramp tour of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg is the southbound entrance and northbound exit at 31 St N. 31 St N is a partial interchange with a southbound entrance and a northbound exit as opposed to a complete interchange. However, thereís some construction history to this interchange which qualifies for ghost ramp status in its own right.
When Interstate 275 was proposed for construction the 31 St S exit was planned to be the southern terminus of the Pinellas Expressway, proposed in the early 1970's. The Pinellas Expressway would have run from here to Clearwater and northern Pinellas County following the right of way of the CSX Railroad, which is today The Pinellas Trail (a 47-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail on the route of the abandoned CSX Railroad corridor running from Downtown St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs). It would have alleviated traffic congestion in Pinellas County by today's standards; however, strong local opposition shelved the project.
The only other visible reminder of the cancelled Pinellas Expressway is not on Interstate 275, but the interchange at US Alt. 19 and FL 666 in Seminole. A spur from the Pinellas Expressway would have carried traffic to Madeira Beach by way of a high level bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway rather than the existing drawbridge built in 1962.
The reminder which stands today is a southbound entrance and northbound exit ramp at 31 St S as a part of Interstate 275's Exit 20. In addition, if you happen to drive southbound on Interstate 275 over the 31 St S exit you may see another ghost stub ramp as you pass the signage for Gulfport just before 22 Av S and itís on the right hand side.
Sources of Information for this Web Page
Most of the facts behind the ghost ramps mentioned here are from my personal recollections from my childhood years when Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg was under construction. In addition, I have done some research based on what I have seen on the Florida DOT right of way maps for Interstate 275 as well as the maps as part of a report on the Pinellas Expressway kept on file at the City of St. Petersburg Engineering Department.
This site was last updated 01/02/12