I-75 at Bruce B. Downs to close for six nights

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
Published January 8, 2008

NEW TAMPA - Construction crews plan to close Interstate 75 at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard for six nights beginning tonight, a move likely to slow traffic in every direction at the busy interchange.

The closures, scheduled to run from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly through Monday morning, will accommodate the installation of bridge girders for a future flyover at the intersection.

Beginning tonight, that point of I-75 will function more like a boulevard than an overpass. Interstate travelers will be forced onto exit ramps, then will have to cross Bruce B. Downs, directed by law enforcement officers, onto the entrance ramps.

"Traffic-wise, it's fairly simple," said John McShaffrey, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, which commissioned the $41-million project. "But it's going to cause some backups on the interstate. You can't have people going through there at highway speeds."

Night owls on Bruce B. Downs will spend some time sitting still. McShaffrey said officers will give priority to the higher-volume traffic traveling on I-75.

He said three pairs of girders must be raised into place above the interstate. Eventually, the road bed those girders support will allow southbound drivers on Bruce B. Downs to curve over I-75 and merge into its southbound lanes.

The project is to be completed by spring of next year.

McShaffrey said the closing schedule is tentative beyond Thursday night. Contractors hope to avoid the girder work on Friday and Saturday nights, but could extend it beyond Sunday night, he said.

"We think that two to three days next week would be the most that they need," McShaffrey said.

Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com.