As new exits open, officials promise less congestion on I-275 - FOX 13 News

As new exits open, officials promise less congestion on I-275

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Some major changes are on the way for a popular commute through the heart of Tampa. A reconstruction project is set to begin next week on a stretch of southbound Interstate 275. It will shut down the current exit for Howard-Armenia and Himes Avenue starting next Thursday, November 8th.

The right-side ramp is shutting down and being temporarily replaced with an exit on the left-side of the expressway. It's expected to stay in place until the summer of 2014.

The new left-side exit will be for Howard and Armenia Avenue traffic only. Himes Avenue will have its own exit on the right side, farther west on southbound I-275.

The ramp closure is part of a larger reconstruction project to improve I-275 driving conditions.

"Right now, we have what we call a roller coaster effect, where when you go over all the cross streets, you go up pretty steeply and then back down. The problem is, you can't see traffic up ahead of you very far," FDOT'S John McShaffrey said Friday.

The $215 million project will take at least four years. It will focus on the stretch starting east of State Road 60/Memorial Highway interchange, to the Hillsborough River/downtown Tampa.

"It'll be a flatter interstate, raised up a little bit more, four lanes, improved interchange ramps, better drainage, a whole new interstate system when we're done," McShaffrey said.

An average of 16,500 drivers use the current Howard-Armenia-Himes exit each day. The speed limit through that stretch of I-275 will remain at 55 miles per hour during the switch from a right-side exit, to one on the left. Drivers are encouraged to use extra caution as everyone gets acclimated.

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