By Sean Bowes
Over the next several months, drivers will see even more temporary traffic shifts on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., in addition to new work on the entrance and exit ramps for I-75, as part of the widening of the interstate between Fowler Ave. and S.R. 54 in Pasco County. Also, new traffic signals, drainage construction and utility work will also be taking place between Commerce Palms Dr. and Dona Michelle Dr., which could mean temporary lane closures (at night) near the interstate.
During the improvements in the area of the I-75 overpass, drivers will notice a new temporary on ramp onto I-75 southbound from BBD, as well as a traffic shift on the current northbound I-75 exit ramp. New bike lanes and pedestrian walkways are being constructed on the east side of BBD under I-75. After the pedestrian lanes are completed, which should be sometime in the third week of December, drivers will see a shift in traffic to temporary pavement on the south side of BBD for construction work in the median.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is handling all of the construction for the BBD widening project between Commerce Palms Dr. in Tampa Palms and Dona Michelle Dr. The widening of that section is included in FDOT’s $95 million budget to widen I-75 from four to six and/or eight lanes from Fowler Ave. in Tampa to north of S.R. 54 in Wesley Chapel. The project also includes a new I-75 overpass bridge over BBD. The widening of this 11.4-mile stretch of the interstate should be completed by the spring of 2016.
The demolition of the current overpass bridge from BBD southbound onto I-75 southbound also is a part of the BBD widening project.
The reconstruction of the northbound and southbound I-75 bridges over BBD will mean some big changes for drivers traveling over BBD. The new bridge will be about 8 ft. higher than the current overpass, with a 6-ft. and 8-ft. shoulder in each direction. According to FDOT public information officer John McShaffery,, the new bridge will be higher than the current overpass in order to allow for the possibility of light-rail transportation service along BBD in the future.
McShaffery says, “In order to facilitate the replacement (of the current overpass), a temporary steel bridge, manufactured by the Acrow company, will be constructed.”
The two-lane Acrow bridge will be erected on the east side of the existing northbound I-75 lanes.
Delivery of the Acrow bridge components is expected in January 2012 and it should take approximately 30 days to assemble. The contractors for the project (Prince Contracting Company) are planning on shifting the interstate traffic onto the new Acrow bridge in the spring of 2012.
The temporary bridge is expected to be in place for a little less than two years, with both widened sections of I-75 opening in early 2014, although McShaffery stresses that the dates are approximate and can be affected by any number of changes in weather conditions and other factors.
In order to keep traffic flowing on I-75 with the new Acrow bridge, southbound I-75 traffic will be shifted onto the existing northbound lanes and northbound traffic will use the Acrow bridge. The southbound I-75 lanes over BBD will be the first to be demolished.
Once the southbound I-75 bridge is complete, southbound traffic will be shifted onto the Acrow bridge and the existing northbound bridge will be used for northbound I-75 traffic. Once both the new north- and southbound I-75 bridges over BBD are completed, the Acrow bridge will be removed.