I-275 changes start Thursday - FOX 13 News

I-275 changes start Thursday

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The morning commute is about to get a lot more confusing for many drivers, with some big changes in store for a couple of busy southbound exit ramps off Interstate 275. Starting Thursday, November 8th, drivers taking the Howard/Armenia exit will have to exit on the left side of the interstate.

The shift is part of a big project to widen I-275. The lanes have already been re-striped and are pretty much all ready for the morning commute. It's going to take us all a little while to get used to this, but for at least 18 months we'll be exiting for Armenia and Howard on the left hand side of 275.

"Are you ready for that? Oh no!," joked Teresa Ferrell.

But oh yes! Starting Thursday, no more exiting to the right.

"No more? Well thank you for telling me that!," said Mike Hamdan.

"It's going to be crazy, people are going to have to learn to drive again!," said Ferrell.

"There'll be people that don't get the message, they'll be surprised, they'll be in the right lane, then realize at the last minute, they have to be over in the left lane. What we suggest to those people is, don't make any silly maneuvers, it's just not worth it," said John McShaffrey with FDOT.

"So, how far are they going to put the sign from that?" asked Hamdan. "Because you know people that drive, like oh my God, here we go!"

It's a massive, $215 million widening project, which has been a long time coming for the busy interstate.

"What we're doing is rebuilding all of the southbound interstate and widening it, adding an extra lane, all the way from downtown, to the exit towards the airport, State Route 60. And on the northbound side, rebuilding that and adding a lane from State Route 60, connecting into the area of Himes, where we finished that north bound work in 2010," said McShaffrey.

The location of the Himes exit is also changing, but soon overhead signs and electronic message boards will guide you to the right ramps.

We've all gotten used to exiting on that long stretch of Himes Avenue, but starting Thursday, crews will be tearing all that concrete out.

"You won't have that long area where you're separated from the mainline traffic continuing on to Himes, it'll be more like a traditional exit," said McShaffrey.

Cabbies loved that, especially on airport trips when I-275 would get backed up.

"Instead of staying in that traffic, you just zip down Himes, and scoot on over. It was convenient, and it spoiled us," said cabbie James Brathwavit.

"So wish me luck!," said Hamdan enthusiastically.

The lane changes should be done by summer 2014.

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