Express lanes, a pedestrian bridge, and the possibility of future light rail are among the updated elements of a redesigned Howard Frankland Bridge, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2020.
The changes, announced Monday by officials with the Florida Department of Transportation, are due, in part, to input received over the summer during the Tampa Bay Next Process.
New plans call for the construction of a southbound bridge with four general use lanes and two express lanes in each direction. It also now includes a bicycle/pedestrian trail. And it will be designed with a structure robust enough to accommodate future light rail, if that development were ever to be approved.
The previous plan called for constructing a third bridge to accommodate light rail. Now officials say that the FDOT would only need to widen the existing southbound bridge and shift some of the travel lanes to the widened bridge, “which would be more cost efficient and less impactful to the environment.”
FDOT officials also say that the additional express lane in each direction will better prepare the Howard Frankland Bridge for the potential of autonomous vehicles.
“These changes improve the previous design proposed for the Howard Frankland Bridge, and they incorporate feedback from the community and local partners related to safety, transit, bicycle and pedestrian options, and future transportation needs,” says David Gwynn, District Seven Secretary for the FDOT. “With Hurricane Irma evacuations fresh in our minds and the need to accommodate the growing demand in the Tampa Bay Region, this new design not only improves safety and mobility, but continues to enhance multimodal opportunities and choices.”
FDOT officials unveiled their previous vision for the redesign of the Howard Frankland Bridge back in January. At that time they announced that a new, six-lane bridge would be built to the north of the existing bridges with two of those lanes slated to become toll lanes.
There will be two public hearings on the new design of the Howard Frankland next month. On Nov. 14, there will be a public hearing held at the Westshore Marriott in Tampa, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. On Nov. 16 there will be a public hearing at the Hilton-St. Pete Carillon Park, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
In the interim, FDOT officials will be updating local government agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the next few weeks about the new design for the Howard Frankland.
Tampa Bay Next held its first public outreach meeting with the public in May, after FDOT announced that it had essentially replaced the now-defunct Tampa Bay Express (TBX) project, which among other things, most controversially called for implementing toll express lanes on parts of I-275.
During a community working group held last Monday, FDOT introduced new concepts for highway improvements around the downtown Tampa Interstate 275 exchange. That included the announcement that the express lanes proposed for I-275 would mostly be shifted to Interstate 75, a welcome development for neighborhood activists who protested that element of the plan.