Exit 53: Bearss Avenue

Making the final straightaway stretch before curving towards Interstate 75 in unincorporated Hillsborough County is the next segment of Interstate 275 at Bearss Avenue, which was built in 1967. The segment from Bearss Avenue (including the overpasses that go over Bearss Avenue) northward to today’s junction with Interstate 75 north was constructed in 1964 as a part of the original Interstate 75. However, according to Justin Cozart’s bayciti.net website (link goes to archived page at the Internet Archive), Interstate 75 terminated just south of Bearss Avenue until the highway was extended south to meet with Interstate 4 in 1967.

In 2003 this section of Interstate 275 from Busch Boulevard (where the six lane section used to taper down to four lanes) to north of Bearss Avenue was widened to six lanes, providing for a generally six lane Interstate 275 through Tampa and St. Petersburg with eight lane sections in between. This had to be done due to the rapid growth in the north Tampa area as well as address capacity improvements. All overpasses between Busch Boulevard and Bearss Avenue were retrofitted from two original overpasses to one single overpass and capacity improvements at Bearss Avenue were also addressed by having through Bearss Avenue traffic pass between the overpass pier and the overpass abutment on either side while Bearss Avenue traffic headed to Interstate 275 passes between the overpass piers.

Bearss Avenue is a major east-west road connecting Dale Mabry Highway with Bruce B Downs Blvd.; west of Dale Mabry Highway the road name changes from Bearss Avenue to Ehrlich Road providing access to the Veterans Expressway/FL Toll 589. Like Fletcher Avenue, Bearss Avenue is a county road maintained by Hillsborough County except for the segment from Nebraska Avenue (US 41) through Interstate 275 to Florida Avenue (Business US 41) which is maintained by the Florida DOT and is signed as FL 678 (FL 678 is unsigned on Interstate 275). As mentioned earlier Interstate 275 (in its early heydays as the original Interstate 75) stopped here just south of Bearss Avenue and traffic headed to or from Downtown Tampa and Interstate 4 had to use either Nebraska Avenue (US 41/FL 45) or Florida Avenue (Business US 41) until 1967 when the segment of Interstate 275 opened.

An Idea for Livingston Avenue and Interstate 275

Livingston Avenue is a north-south county road north of Bearss Avenue which crosses Interstate 275. As Livingston Avenue is a heavily traveled roadway and there are a considerable number of neighborhoods within that area I have an idea for better access to Interstate 275 (and relieve some congestion on Bearss Avenue): Convert Livingston Avenue from a crossover to a full fledged interchange. However, having a full service interchange on Interstate 275 at Livingston Avenue may be a challenge.

First, the existing Bearss Avenue interchange (Exit 53) is only 3/4 of a mile south of Livingston Avenue. This would create a close spacing issue as the two interchanges would be close together. However, you also got a high overcrossing at Nebraska Avenue (US 41) and the CSX Railroad tracks, so an interchange configuration similar to the one at Busch Boulevard (Exit 50) would more than likely have to be built.

Second, there was a proposed toll road that would go through the New Tampa community which would connect Interstate 275 with Interstate 75. However, this toll road has been placed on hold (more than likely scrapped) and, in my opinion, it is not needed. Besides, New Tampa residents who want to use Interstate 275 south can do so at FL 56 or use Interstate 75 south to Tampa and Intestate 275 via Interstate 4 rather than another new road.

Third, the Federal Government would be involved. You cannot simply build an interchange where you want one. Any new interchange or any modification to an existing interchange requires the approval of the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), after the Florida DOT completes the mandatory Interchange Justification Report for a new interchange or an Interchange Modification Report for an existing interchange. After all, Interstate 275 as well as every other interstate highway in the United States was built with federal money; therefore, you have to play by the FHWA's rules. (And when an interchange on an interstate highway is built, you got federal strings attached such as the federal Davis-Bacon Act among other things.

Interstate 275 Northbound at Exit 53

Interstate 275 Southbound at Exit 53

Perspective of Interstate 275 at Exit 53