A freighter passes below the Sunshine Skyway to the east of Fort DeSoto Park on a windy afternoon. Photo taken April 4, 2014.
Interstate 275 in Florida loops through urban areas of both St. Petersburg and Tampa in the Tampa Bay area. The freeway joins Downtown Tampa with Downtown St. Petersburg while connecting Pinellas County with Palmetto and Bradenton in Manatee County. It starts at a three-wye interchange with I-75 outside Palmetto and extends west through Terra Ceia to the tolled Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay. Northward the freeway winds through St. Petersburg to the eight lane Howard Frankland Bridge across Old Tampa Bay. The span turns I-275 east into Tampa en route to the central business district and Downtown Interchange with Interstate 4. There the route turns almost due north through north Tampa to exit the city by Lutz back to I-75 at the Pasco County line. Interstate 75, by contrast, stays away from both cities and acts as a bypass between Southwest Florida and the Nature Coast.
The Tampa Bay area is home to over 4,000,000. Clearwater anchors northern Pinellas County while St. Petersburg with its downtown along Tampa Bay, spread across the southern peninsula. Tampa, home to both MacDill Air Force Base and the busy Port Tampa Bay, encircles Hillsborough Bay to the east, with unincorporated suburbs expanding outward to encompass Brandon, Riverview and Ruskin.
The original layout for the Tampa Bay Interstate network took Interstate 4 west from Tampa to St. Petersburg and Interstate 75 south from Pasco County to an end at the Downtown Interchange near Ybor City. Changes were made in 1971, when I-75 was route southward over I-4 west from Downtown Tampa to Pinellas as part of its extended alignment south to Naples. The eastern alignment of I-75 around Tampa Bay was given the designation of Interstate 75E. This change lasted just two years, when I-75 shifted eastward over proposed I-75E and I-275 was designated over the loop through both Tampa and St. Pete.
Interstate 275 crosses the cable stayed Sunshine Skyway Bridge over the mouth of Tampa Bay. On May 9, 1980, the southbound span of the original Sunshine Skyway Bridge (a steel truss bridge) collapsed when the Summit Venture freighter collided with a bridge support. This led to two-way traffic on the remaining northbound span until the replacement was built. Ultimately, the old bridge was removed, though portions of the approach in both directions were retained for use as fishing piers run by the state park system.
The following are key dates in the history of Interstate 275 in Florida:1
1973 - Interstate 275 created when Interstate 75 is shifted from the St. Petersburg-Tampa route to the Tampa Bay bypass. At that time, Interstate 275 was complete from 38th Street North in St. Petersburg north to Lutz. The Sunshine Skyway also carried Interstate 275 shields. The portion of Interstate 275 between the skyway (near Maximo Point) and 38th Street North was unconstructed.
1975 - Interstate 275 under construction from 5th Avenue South north to 38th Street North.
1977 - Interstate 275 opened from 5th Avenue South north to 38th Street North in St. Petersburg.
1980 - Interstate 275 under construction from Interstate 75 near Gillette west to Terra Ceia. Tragedy struck I-275 when the ship Summit Venture collided with the original Sunshine Skyway. 35 people died in this accident, and one of the two spans collapsed.
1981 - Interstate 275 under construction from Maximo Point (northern end of the Sunshine Skyway) north to 5th Avenue. The northern terminus of Interstate 275 was extended up former Interstate 75 to near Worthington Gardens.
1983 - Two sections of Interstate 275 opened: the south interchange with I-75 and the section of I-275 from Maximo Point (northern end of the Sunshine Skyway) north to 5th Avenue South.
1984 - Replacement Sunshine Skyway (a new cable-stayed bridge) was under construction.
1987 - New Sunshine Skyway opened on April 30th. At that point, Interstate 275 was complete.
Passing over U.S. 41, a diagrammatic sign outlines the forthcoming three-wye interchange with Interstate 75. Photo taken by Gary S. Peterson (01/03).
East of Frog Creek, I-275 enters the half mile approach to Interstate 75. Two lanes default onto the freeway south to Ellenton, Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples. Photo taken 09/02/13.
Passing under 36th Avenue East (former SR 683), the ramp for I-275 north to Sun City Center, Ruskin and Tampa departs for a high speed flyover. Two lanes otherwise continue onto I-75 south, with milepost zero posted ahead. Photo taken 09/02/13.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 75 north
The original diagrammatic overhead posted one mile out from the I-275 south end. Photo taken 12/00.
Naples remains the control city for I-75 south from Tampa where the route ended until signs went up along Alligator Alley in 1991. Photo taken 12/00.
Another set of original guide signs for I-75 posted as I-275 ends. All of the Interstate 75 guide panels on Interstate 275 were replaced by January of 2003. The city of Sarasota is 18 miles to the south while Fort Myers will be reached in 88 miles. Photo taken 12/00.
Perspective from Interstate 75 south
Just southwest of the diamond interchange with Moccasin Wallow Road, I-75 quickly meets Exit 228 with Interstate 275 north. I-275 travels west to Rubonia, Terra Cela, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge ahead of St. Petersburg. Photo taken 03/01/13.
Exit 228 veers away from Interstate 75 south. Interstate 275 meets U.S. 41 just one mile to the west. U.S. 19 north merges onto Interstate 275 north at Terra Cela ahead of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge toll plaza. The two overlap northward to 54th Avenue South (Exit 17) in south St. Pete. Photo taken 03/01/13.
Interstate 75 north expands to four lanes on the one mile approach to Exit 228 with Interstate 275 west. I-275 joins Southwest Florida with St. Petersburg and Clearwater while I-75 continues north more directly to Tampa. Photo taken 09/28/13.
Overheads attached to the 69th Street SE overpass directs motorists to the two-lane flyover for Interstate 275 north. I-275 leads west to Terra Ceia and the toll plaza for the Sunshine Skyway. Photo taken 01/16/14.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 75 north
The original signage for the split of Interstate 275 from Interstate 75 north from the 1980s. Photo taken by Gene Janczynskyi (10/25/00).
Interstate 275 leaves the interchange with Bearss Avenue (Hillsborough County 582) and continues northward to its merge with Interstate 75. There are no interchanges between Exit 53 and the northern terminus, though a new ramp to SR 56 (Exit 275 of I-75 north) at the north end was added in 2011. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Interstate 275 consists of a four-lane freeway between Bearss Avenue and the merge with Interstate 75 north. A wye interchange facilitates the movements between the two freeways at the Pasco County line. Photo taken 05/28/05.
A sweeping ramp joins the Interstate 75 mainline as the 2011-opened ramp to Florida 56 at Land O' Lakes joins a distributor roadway to the right. An end sign stands at the gore point. Photo taken 05/29/06.
A look at the previous set of end signs posted at the northbound merge of I-275 onto Interstate 75. I-75 continues 76 miles northward to Ocala and 113 miles to Gainesville. Photo taken 05/28/05.
Perspective from Interstate 75 south
A new Arrow-Per-Lane (APL) sign was installed at the Cypress Creek bridge along Interstate 75 south for the impending wye interchange (Exit 274) with I-275 south. Road work through 2016 expand I-75 to six overall lanes from the Pasco County line southward to SR 582. Photo taken 02/17/14.
Exit 274 was expanded to three lanes for Interstate 275 south into Tampa in 2014. I-75 curves southeasterly across New Tampa toward Temple Terrace and Brandon while I-275 straddles western reaches of New Tampa to the University of South Florida area. Photo taken 02/17/14.
A former ground level sign posted two miles ahead of the Interstates 75 and 275 southbound split. Photo taken by Gene Janczynskyi (10/25/00).
A diagrammatic overhead attached to the SR 56 overpass outlines the forthcoming wye interchange with I-275 south. The interchange with State Road 56 opened in March 2002. Photo taken by J.P. Nasiatka (06/30/03).
One mile north of the I-75/275 split. I-75 sees one lone interchange within the Tampa city limits, in four miles at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard (CR 581) in New Tampa. Photo taken by J.P. Nasiatka (06/15/03).
Interstate 75 southbound at Exit 274 (old Exit 57). I-275 enters the city limits of Tampa in nine miles. Another 174 miles of Interstate 75 await southbound motorists before the freeway reaches the city of Naples. Photo taken by Gene Janczynskyi (10/25/00).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 75 south
Looking southwest at the Howard Frankland Bridge from Cypress Point Park in Tampa. Photo taken October 19, 2013.
The Howard Frankland Bridge initially opened with four lanes in 1960. A second span was added in 1990. A future project will replace the older northbound span with a new bridge, proposed for 2020 to 2025.