Congestion builds at I-275 exit after switch - FOX 13 News

Congestion builds at I-275 exit after switch

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A messy, long commute is becoming an everyday occurrence for those who drive on southbound I-275 near the new Howard-Armenia exit.

The congestion started one week ago, when Florida Department of Transportation officials switched traffic flow to make room for an interstate renovation project.

"I would say the backups that we're having, we anticipated, but not to that level," FDOT's John McShaffrey said Thursday.

Traffic jams on I-275 and westbound I-4 are almost commonplace since FDOT switched the traffic flow near the southbound interchange one week ago.

"The travel time is about 25 minutes for a nine-mile stretch. When it first happened, it was about 45 minutes. So yes, it is getting better, but it's still double the travel time during the rush hour then before this change happened," said FOX 13 Traffic reporter Jennifer Epstein.

The pile-ups aren't just reserved for rush hour.

"I think the biggest trend is that the rush hour drive seems to be getting longer, where as before this new traffic pattern, the rush hour drive and congestion was just tapering off around 9 o'clock. We're seeing that heavy traffic extend farther into the day, even into the middle of the day," Epstein said.

Traffic is spilling over onto the street level, as frustrated drivers look for a retreat.  It's leading to more brake lights on Ashley Drive, Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Kennedy Boulevard.

The added traffic is turning out to be good news for some businesses along the ride.

"Some of these people are sitting here, passing by, reading my sign and calling me because they're sitting in traffic sitting here. So it probably is a good thing for me for business, it's a bad thing for commuting," said Sam Sellers, who owns Golden Triangle Photography along Kennedy Boulevard.

FDOT is monitoring the mess along the interstate. They've tweaked traffic signals along exit ramps and they may re-stripe problematic merge lanes if congestion doesn't clear up.

"We'll make some adjustments, but after that, it's not going to be as good as it was prior to the switch. We know that, so people will have to make some adjustments," McShaffrey said Thursday.

The construction project impacting southbound I-275 traffic is scheduled to be complete in Spring-Summer 2014.

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