Although we went to press with this issue the weekend before Black Friday, I am among the few local residents who avoids the Tampa Premium Outlets like the plague during the holiday shopping season.
Even though I hope both local shopping malls have a successful year, I just don’t have the patience to fight the traffic entering and exiting the outlet mall during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Case in point, despite the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) being pretty much fully open at S.R. 56 and I-75 last year at this time, the traffic getting both into and out of the Outlets was brutal.
I remember wondering to myself, “Why can’t someone look into adding at least another way to exit the mall?” And the corollary, “Why can’t they improve the interior roads at the mall to better handle the traffic?”
Well, it looks as though someone is trying the do something about it, which surely won’t be able to help the holiday traffic flow this year or probably even next year, but at least it’s becoming a possibility.
Mike Raysor, the president/owner of Raysor Traffic Consulting, LLC, says his company has been retained to study the possibility of adding a right-turn-out exit from, adjacent to the right-turn-in entrance to, the mall. Raysor is studying the possible effects not only on mall traffic but at the DDI itself, since the exit from the mall would put those exiting vehicles in what is now two entrance lanes to get onto southbound I-75.
Pasco County, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and Sierra Properties, which has developed not only the outlet mall itself but also the development both north and south of S.R. 56 between I-75 and Wesley Chapel Blvd., are all working with Raysor’s company to study the potential effects, not only on traffic flow but also on safety, since adding the new mall exit would have an effect not only on southbound I-75, but also on vehicles attempting to head eastbound S.R. 56 and even some trying to cross enough lanes of traffic to get on northbound I-75 once they’ve exited the Outlets.
Raysor also has retained former FDOT transportation engineer Joel Provenzano to help with the traffic studies. Provenzano, who also provides editorial research for this publication, was unable to help with this story because of his new consulting position.
Provenzano was with FDOT when the “Mall Entrance” sign shown in the photo above left was erected at the right-in-only turn near Rock & Brews, in an effort to keep at least some traffic away from the mall’s main entrance at Grand Cypress Dr.
Unfortunately, Raysor says, that additional entrance hasn’t done as much as it possibly might have had there also been a right-out-exit at the same location. “A lot of people don’t even realize that entrance is there,” Raysor says, “but more people might recognize it as an entrance if there also was a way out of the mall in the same area.”
We’ll keep you posted as to the outcome of the study. In the meantime, can someone please look into closing off the median and the left turn at BJ’s right after you enter at the light at Grand Cypress or at least cut the hedges at that median to increase visibility?