The Interstate 275 Exit 28 Makeover
If you are one of these motorists that make northbound Interstate 275 at Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd.) a rite of passage especially during the afternoon rush hour, you have seen it before: The right lane of Interstate 275 northbound backed up for about a mile and a half before the Gandy exit. After all, when you get to Exit 28 on northbound Interstate 275 and if Tampa is your ultimate destination, you have two choices: Stay on Interstate 275 northbound and get stuck in the Howard Frankland Bridge traffic as you enter Tampa or exit onto Gandy Blvd. (FL 694) eastbound and follow Gandy Blvd. across the Gandy Bridge into Tampa where you can link up with the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway (where you can access downtown Tampa and points east such as Brandon).
Ironically, the signage for Exit 28 on Interstate 275 northbound (pictured above in the page banner) takes you on Gandy Blvd. westbound to Pinellas Park and Seminole. However, there is no mention for Tampa except for the mileage sign on the off ramp from northbound Interstate 275. Many years ago there was signage for both Tampa and the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway on a separate sign which used to be located just south of Turner's Creek, about a quarter of a mile before the Gandy exit but it has been taken down long ago, which I believe as part of a sign replacement project done around 1989.
The typical afternoon backup on Interstate 275 northbound approaching Exit 28
More of the backup as we approach Exit 28 (Gandy Blvd.) on Interstate 275 northbound
A History of Exit 28 on Interstate 275
Back in the late 1960's Gandy Blvd. was nothing more than a two-lane road which connected US 19 in Pinellas Park with US 92/FL 687 (4th Street North) in St. Petersburg using what is today 94th Avenue North and Koger Blvd. (so named for the office park which stands today). At that time the area was just wilderness.
Gandy Blvd. underwent a transformation from the old two-lane country road to the contemporary four-lane highway we know today. The first transformation of Gandy Blvd. took place in 1971 when a section of Gandy Blvd. was reconstructed as part of construction of Interstate 275 as it was beginning to snake its way through St. Petersburg. In 1977 and 1978 Gandy Blvd. has seen more widening from US 19 (where an overpass that crosses US 19 was constructed) to the entrance of the Gateway Centre Business Park, as well as new highway from Frontage Road to 4th Street North. The new highway put Gandy Blvd. on a newer yet safer alignment and the old alignment of Gandy Blvd. on 94th Avenue North and Koger Blvd. reverted from Florida DOT jurisdiction to City of St. Petersburg jurisdiction. Moreover, the newer alignment connects Gandy Blvd. with US 92 and the Gandy Bridge.
The Original Interstate 275 Exit 28 Layout Plan
The exit layout plan for Interstate 275 at Gandy Blvd. when it was originally built in 1971 was:
- A free flow two lane directional flyover from eastbound Gandy Blvd. to northbound Interstate 275 that benefited Pinellas Park residents.
- A two lane high speed off ramp from Interstate 275 southbound to westbound Gandy Blvd. providing access to Pinellas Park.
- A one lane high speed off ramp from Interstate 275 northbound to eastbound Gandy Blvd.
- A circular low speed (30 mph) on ramp from westbound Gandy Blvd. to southbound Interstate 275.
There were no movements planned where traffic would be required to cross Gandy Blvd. on an at-level grade. That would change in 1981 when two new movements were added to Exit 28:
- A new on ramp from the existing directional flyover that would enable motorists to enter southbound Interstate 275 from eastbound Gandy Blvd. This would enable motorists to safely enter southbound Interstate 275 from eastbound Gandy Blvd. without having to make a dangerous U turn at the Frontage Road intersection.
- A new movement from northbound Interstate 275 to westbound Gandy Blvd. using the existing off ramp from northbound Interstate 275. This would include a traffic signal at Gandy Blvd. for motorists coming off the off ramp and benefits commuters who live in Pinellas Park or Seminole and work in St. Petersburg without having to make a dangerous U turn at the Frontage Road intersection in order to proceed westbound on Gandy Blvd.
- A new traffic signal at the intersection of Frontage Road and Gandy Blvd. to address the increasingly heavy traffic issue (which is a reality today).
- Over the years since the Gandy Blvd. exit at Interstate 275 existed, even with the 1981 improvements made traffic has gotten worse every year. As there is no dedicated deceleration lane on Interstate 275 northbound for the exit at Gandy Blvd. traffic is backed up in the right lane of northbound Interstate 275, sometimes to just north of the 62nd Avenue North overpass. Add the traffic signal at the base of the northbound Interstate 275 off ramp and you have gridlock.
Here is a graphic of the current configuration of Interstate 275 at Exit 28, showing the original 1971 construction and the 1981 additions
A Makeover Plan to Relieve Overcrowding on Interstate 275 at Exit 28
DISCLAIMER: The following plan described below is an opinion of the Webmaster. Currently the Florida DOT has no plans at the present time for work in the immediate area of Interstate 275 at Exit 28 as well as on Gandy Blvd. other than the work going on Gandy Blvd as part of the overpass construction projects at 16 St N, Martin Luther King St N and 4 St N.
Here is my plan on giving Interstate 275 at Exit 28 a good makeover, a plan that should please commuters who regularly travel this interchange as well as through Interstate 275 travelers. According to this graphic the following Interstate 275 movements at Exit 28 should be eliminated:
Flyover ramp from eastbound Gandy Blvd. to northbound Interstate 275: This flyover ramp is pretty much underutilized at all times, even during the morning and evening commutes.
Reduce the number of lanes on the off ramp from southbound Interstate 275 to westbound Gandy Blvd.: Like the flyover ramp I mentioned earlier this ramp is pretty much underutilized.
Now that we have taken out these two movements the following new Interstate 275 movements at Exit 28 should be constructed:
Flyover ramp from northbound Interstate 275 to westbound Gandy Blvd.: This flyover ramp I believe is desperately needed especially during the evening commute when motorists are headed home in Pinellas Park or Seminole from downtown St. Petersburg. We can ditch the traffic signal that I believe causes a lot of the backups on northbound Interstate 275 at Exit 28. A part of the off ramp from southbound Interstate 275 can be used to join the number of lanes.
Flyover ramp from westbound Gandy Blvd. to southbound Interstate 275: This flyover ramp would be a benefit for the morning commute into downtown St. Petersburg as plenty of motorists from the surrounding apartment and condominium complexes enter Interstate 275 southbound at Gandy Blvd. We can then ditch the old low-speed 30 mph choked with traffic on the morning commute circular ramp.
Ramp from westbound Gandy Blvd. to northbound Interstate 275: This ramp can be constructed using the extant section of ramp which is now the current flyover ramp from eastbound Gandy Blvd. to northbound Interstate 275. This would benefit people who work for the companies in the industrial park on the northeast corner of Gandy Blvd. and Interstate 275 providing a connection to Tampa as well as Clearwater via Roosevelt Blvd. (Exit 30).
Replacement ramp from eastbound Gandy Blvd. to northbound Interstate 275: Don't worry, Pinellas Park, we did not forget about you! This ramp would be of a low speed circular ramp design like the circular ramp currently being used for the on ramp to Interstate 275 southbound from westbound Gandy Blvd.
Widening of Interstate 275 northbound from 54th Avenue North (Exit 26) to Gandy Blvd.: Desperately needed no matter what. The current six lane configuration simply cannot handle the increased volume of traffic today and it should be widened to at least eight lanes.
Upgrading of Gandy Blvd. from Interstate 275 to 4th Street North and beyond: Gandy Blvd. desperately needs to be upgraded to controlled access standards to relieve traffic congestion in the area. The intersections at 4th Street North/Roosevelt Blvd., Martin Luther King Street North and 16th Street North/Frontage Road/94th Avenue North are being converted from at grade intersections to overpasses. However, I believe this makeover of Gandy Blvd. has the potential for a possible Interstate 875.
Whoa! A possible upgrade of Gandy Blvd. (and Gandy Bridge) to Interstate 875?
It was tried before as an extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway but the plans were shelved many years ago. Now that we're planning - and building - overpasses over the dreaded 4th and Gandy intersection we ought to dust off the plans.
Here is how a controlled access section of Gandy Blvd. would work from east of 4th Street North to the present day western terminus of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway in Tampa: For the most part of Gandy Blvd. frontage roads would be built to service the businesses on Gandy Blvd., most importantly the WTSP Channel 10 studios at 11450 Gandy Blvd. The Gandy Bridge would be upgraded to interstate standards.
But once we get into Tampa, the idea of connecting the Gandy Bridge to the Selmon Crosstown has met a lot of opposition. Two routes were proposed, one using Gandy Blvd. and the other making a sweep south of Gandy Blvd. linking up with the Crosstown. However, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority - the authority that runs the Selmon Crosstown - has plans for an overhead expressway that would connect the eastern end of the Gandy Bridge with the present day western terminus of the Selmon Crosstown. The overhead expressway as planned would utilize the center of Gandy Blvd. (for the overpass bridge supports in the center median) and be a two lane expressway but it really needs to be a single bridge four lane expressway, similar to the Selmon Crosstown's express lanes connecting Downtown Tampa with Brandon.
Now that we have another limited access path across Tampa Bay in addition to the Howard Frankland Bridge, I believe the upgraded Gandy Blvd. would be a candidate for an Interstate 875 which would connect Interstate 275 at Exit 28 in St. Petersburg with Interstate 75 in Brandon, routing it over the Selmon Crosstown. But the Selmon Crosstown is a toll road; however, Alligator Alley in southern Florida is a toll road that carried FL 84 in the beginning when it was opened in the late 1960's, then it became a part of Interstate 75 as part of the Tampa to Miami Interstate 75 expansion (and, consequently, the tolls were allowed to be kept).
I believe such a highway would be desperately needed as an alternative to the already traffic clogged Howard Frankland Bridge, which has a tendency to back up in the mornings and evenings. It would also make an excellent hurricane evacuation route, especially for those living on the Pinellas beaches who have to evacuate due to an approach of a hurricane.
Now what about west of Interstate 275? My suggestion would be to either utilize the existing Gandy Blvd. overpass at US 19 in Pinellas Park and make this the western terminus or construct a connector northeast of the Gandy Blvd. overpass crossing US 19 which would enable motorists to seamlessly connect with US 19 north for access to Largo, Clearwater and the rest of northern Pinellas County. I would suggest the connector between Gandy Blvd. and US 19 as US 19 is already being upgraded to interstate-like standards. The conceptual Interstate 875 would follow the path of the upgraded (and multiplexed with) US 19 through Clearwater and Interstate 875 can end north of FL 580 while US 19 continues.
Conceptual Signage for Interstate 275 at Exit 28
If the improvements to Interstate 275 at Exit 28 ever came to fruition, here is what the signage may look like. I drew up two graphics as to how the signage would be placed as well as how the new signage would come out. Both graphics are PDF files and require Adobe Reader to view.
A comparison of the old and new pavement markings and signage on the northbound Interstate 275 mainline at Exit 28.
What the signage would look like both on the northbound Interstate 275 mainline and the off ramp at Exit 28.
What does the future hold for Interstate 275 at Exit 28?
As I mentioned earlier this is only an opinion of how Interstate 275 at Exit 28 should be reconstructed. To actually do this work would require an enormous amount of time and money to be spent - in this day and age of lean budgets it all depends. It also needs plenty of public support to justify making the changes.