Imagine driving from U.S. Hwy. 19 to I-275 without stopping for any traffic lights.
That dream could be a reality for Pinellas County commuters with a new proposal to be unveiled Monday by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Two major thoroughfares in Pinellas will see significant upgrades as the FDOT puts forward elevated tollways, estimated to cost around $330 million, that will eventually connect I-275 to both U.S. Hwy. 19 through 118th Avenue N, and the Bayside Bridge by way Roosevelt Boulevard past the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport.
In an email obtained from the FDOT, the state of Florida will collaborate with Pinellas County on the “Gateway Express” project, which should begin construction sometime in early 2017. Raised express lanes for SunPass users will be built on S.R. 686/Roosevelt and a planned new S.R. 690 that would be elevated over 118 Ave. N. Both routes would connect with I-275.
Funding for the project will be a combination of federal, state and Penny for Pinellas funds.
By developing new roads as a combination of toll/non-toll, the FDOT believes the proceeds will move up the availability of express lanes by as much as 10 to 20 years.
According to the FDOT, the Gateway Express will address growing transportation needs in the Greater Pinellas Gateway area by constructing a composite non-toll and SunPass connector for the 118th Avenue N. and S.R. 686 corridors as a single design/build project.
The tollway will mean faster travel times through the region, as well as additional revenue for future maintenance and operating costs.
A toll-free option will remain available on the existing roads network, providing commuters with a travel choice.
Ultimately, drivers will travel from U.S Hwy. 19, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport and Bayside Bridge to I-275 without stopping for any signals — saving an estimated nine to 13 minutes during the morning and afternoon commutes.