TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization approved the expansion of the downtown Tampa I-275, I-4 interchange in a 10-6 vote Wednesday.
The meeting began Tuesday evening with a packed room and ended six hours later after midnight.
The approved plan primarily focuses on adding lanes to both sides of I-275 north of the downtown interchange.
Another part of the plan involves modifying the interchange to improve safety and operation.
David Glenn, the district secretary of transportation said it’s a wreck trying to merge and get to where you need to be and said they want to fix that problem.
“We’re not taking any right of ways. We’re not doing anything that’s going to widen the roads into their neighborhoods, simply making operational safety improvements. I hope the community can see that,” Glenn said.
Glenn said there’s an average of four crashes a day around the interchange, roughly 1,500 a year.
Some people, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman believe the area can be made safer without widening.
“Highways kill people. Honestly they’re a health hazard for people who live next to them and poor safety design actually cause accidents. It is very important to people who live in the urban core because it affects their lives and their health,” Overman said.
Overman voted against the expansion.
Dozens of people held signs reading “people first” during the meeting. Many worried about health and safety issues that could be brought on by expanding areas around the downtown interchange, which are lined with neighborhoods.
The process is far from over. Officials said planning and design won’t begin until 2022. Until then, the project will have to be funded.
Glenn is expecting the initial widening to cost roughly $200 million and another $300 million to eventually continue the work north toward on I-275 towards Bearss Ave.