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Interstate 275

One of the major road photo-cliches that I wanted to complete on my recent Florida trip was Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay Area. 


I-275 is an approximately 60 mile loop of I-75 in the Tampa Bay Area that was designated in 1973.  I-275 is somewhat of an oddity given that it traverses through the heart of a Metro Area as a three digit Interstate as opposed to it's parent I-75 which acts as a bypass, that wasn't always the case.

Originally the segments of freeway that now make up I-275 were part of I-4 and I-75.  Originally I-4 extended west from Malfunction Junction (the current junction of I-4 at I-275) from Tampa and ended at Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg.  I-75 on the other hand was located on the segment of freeway now occupied by I-275 north of Malfunction Junction.  This 1964 State Road map shows the incomplete I-4 entering St. Petersburg over Old Tampa Bay on the Howard Franklin Bridge and the planned route of I-75 in Tampa.

1964 Florida State Road Map

By 1971 I-75 was designated over what was I-4 west from Malfunction Junction to St. Petersburg.  In 1973 the designation of I-275 was assigned but it wouldn't be fully completed until the modern Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1987.  Interestingly I-275 still carries the hidden designation of State Road 93 which is largely carried by I-75 through most of it's route through Florida. 

My approach onto I-275 was southbound from I-75 in Pasco County near Wesley Chapel.  Upon pulling onto I-275 the freeway almost immediately enters Hillborough County.



I-275 southbound is signed as "Corporal Michael Joseph Memorial Highway" directly south of I-75.


Tampa is as 15 miles away while St. Petersburg is shown as 34 miles away on I-275 south.


I-275 south traverses Lutz but doesn't have an exit in the community.  The first exit on I-275 south is at mile marker 53 for Bearss Avenue.


At Exit 52 I-275 meets CR 582A on Fletcher Avenue in University.


Exit 51 for FL 582 is as access for University Mall and the Museum of Science and Industry.



South of Exit 51 the route of I-275 enters the City of Tampa.


Access to Busch Gardens is signed at Exit 50 for Busch Boulevard.



Traffic on I-275 south is advised that Exit 45A provides access to downtown, the Florida Aquarium and Amalie Arena.


Access to US 92 and US 41 is signed via Hillsborough Avenue at Exit 47.


An additional advisory sign for Exit 45A is located immediately south of Exit 47.


Directly south another advisory sign alerts I-275 traffic that Raymond James Stadium can be accessed via Exit 46B on FL 574/Martin Luther King Boulevard.



Approaching I-4 at Malfunction Junction I-275 is reduced to two lanes southbound.  I-4 traffic is directed to use Exit 45B while downtown Tampa traffic is directed to use Exit 45A.




I-275 south has a hell of a vista of downtown Tampa past Malfunction Junction.


I-275 south traffic is advised Raymond James Stadium can be accessed at Exit 41B and MacDill Air Force Base via Exit 41A on US 92/Dale Mabry Highway.




At Exit 40B there is a traffic advisory on I-275 south regarding the lengthy Howard Franklin Bridge ahead.  I would imagine running out of gas on the Howard Frankland in rush hour would be one hell of a nightmare walk of shame across Old Tampa Bay.


Exit 39 accesses FL 60 west which can be used to reach the Veterans Expressway/FL 589.



As I-275 south crosses over FL 60 it enters Old Tampa Bay via the Howard Frankland Bridge.  To the south US 92 on the Grand Bridge can be seen while to the north FL 60 over Courtney Campbell Causeway is apparent.





The Howard Frankland Bridge originally opened as a four-lane span in 1960 as part of I-4.  The original span consists of the northbound lanes of I-275 and is 15,872 feet long.  The southbound span was completed in 1990 and is slightly longer at 15,900 feet.  Upon the completion of the southbound span the northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge was closed until 1992 for repairs. 

While crossing Old Tampa Bay on the Howard Frankland Bridge I-275 south enters Pinellas County.




Upon crossing Old Tampa Bay I-275 enters the City of St. Petersburg.





At Exit 31 I-275 south meets FL 688 on Ulmerton Road.


At Exit 30 I-275 south meets FL 686 on Roosevelt Boulevard and CR 296 118th Avenue.


At Exit 28 I-275 meets FL 694 at Gandy Boulevard.  Gandy Boulevard east of I-275 becomes part of US 92 and heads back to Tampa via the Gandy Bridge.


Tropicana Field traffic is directed to use Exit 23B and Exit 22.   Museum and downtown traffic is directed to use Exit 23A on I-375.




I-375 connects to the west terminus of US 92 via FL 595 which is signed as part of US 19A on 5th Street.  The gap is short but nonetheless still very confusing considering Exit 23B is signed as FL 595.


At Exit 22 I-275 south meets I-175 which is another downtown connector freeway.


At Exit 17 I-275 meets FL 682/Pinellas Bayway.  Exit 17 is signed as access to Fort De Soto Park which has a fantastic view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.




South of FL 682 the route of US 19 multiplexes onto I-275 over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  I-275/US 19 south traffic is required to pay a toll to access the Skyway Bridge.  Tolls are presently $1.50 for vehicles without a SunPass and $1.07 for those with one.





An Exit for the North Skyway Fishing Pier and a Rest Area is provided on the southbound approach to the Skyway Bridge.


The Skyway Fishing Pier on both sides of the modern Skyway Bridge is part of the original structure.  The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened as an extension of US 19 in 1954 and was only two-lanes.  A second bridge was built west of it which was opened to traffic in 1971 and became the southbound lanes of US 19 (while the 1954 structure became the north).  The 1971 span was destroyed in May of 1980 when the Summit Venture freighter struck a support column during a thunderstorm.  The impact resulted in the deaths of 35 people and traffic on US 19 had to be completed shifted back to the 1954 Skyway Bridge.  The original Skyway Bridge was replaced by the modern structure as stated above in 1987.  In 2012 I explored the remains of the original Skyway Bridge on the south Skyway Fishing Pier.

Florida Friday; The Great 2012 Florida Trip Part 1 (the Sunshine Skyway Bridge)

The modern Skyway Bridge is 4.14 miles long and has a 180.5 foot clearance below it's center span.  The ascent up the Skyway Bridge is surprisingly gentle considering it rises fairly quickly out of Tampa Bay.








Descending the Skyway Bridge southward provides an excellent overlook view of Tampa Bay and the original Skyway Bridge.






Upon descending the Skyway Bride I-275/US 19 south enters Manatee County where there is access to another rest area and the other side of the Skyway Fishing Pier.




From the rest area the Skyway Bridge can be seen to the north towering over Tampa Bay.  Off in the distance downtown St. Petersburg can also be seen.




There is a monument to the construction the first span of the original Skyway Bridge located at the Manatee County rest area.



I might be wrong but I believe the rest areas and Skyway Fishing Piers are the only locations where the I-275/US 19 multiplex is actually signed.


US 19 south splits from I-275 south at Exit 5 in Terra Ceia.  I-275 south traffic is advised there is no southbound reentry via US 19.




At Exit 2 I-275 south meets US 41/Tamiami Trail in Rubonia.


I-275 meets back up with I-75 and terminates.  I wanted to use northbound I-75 but the ramp was under construction which forced me down to US 301 to turn around.



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