Several roadway improvement initiatives, representing billions in state funding, are progressing throughout St. Petersburg, with some nearing completion.
The five projects with cost estimates total $2.016 billion, while five others lacked price tags. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is also helping fund Cross Bay Ferry operations, the 40th Avenue bridge replacement – even though it is not under the agency’s purview – and contributed $10 million to expanding the SunRunner service.
St. Petersburg City Council members heard the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) update at its July 20 meeting. Evan Mory, the city’s transportation and parking director, called FDOT’s investments in transit upgrades “unprecedented.”
“These amounts of dollars and projects were not coming to St. Petersburg five or 10 years ago,” Mory said.
He told the council that the new construction would simultaneously increase mobility, traffic flow and safety. “It’s hard to balance all those things, but I think they’re doing a good job,” Mory added.
Rail and bicycles across the bay
Richard Moss, FDOT’s regional transportation director, led the presentation. He began with the most significant project, the new $870 million Howard Frankland Bridge.
Construction on a new span that will create four express lanes and eight total started in the fall of 2020. Moss expects work to conclude in late 2025 and said a bicycle path connecting both sides of the bay would extend to 4th Street North in St. Petersburg.
Workers also recently poured a 20-foot concrete deck to support commuter rail service. Moss said FDOT is meeting its regional commitment to accommodate future transit options.
“There will be some things that we do – if that does become available – to the existing bridges to make that happen,” he added.
Moss noted that workers will complete the substructure and supports and “be out of the water” by early fall. Once the new span opens, FDOT will close the current southbound lanes for maintenance and demolish the existing northbound structure, built in 1959.
The Gateway Expressway and I-275
He expects the $595 million Gateway Expressway to open sometime next year. That connects U.S. Highway 19 and the Bayside Bridge with I-275 in north St. Petersburg.
Moss said the project is “getting close,” despite pandemic-induced construction delays. He also noted that it would connect to a reconfigured I-275.
While it lacks funding, an I-275 capacity improvement project is moving forward. That will create two buffer-separated express lanes in each direction from I-375 to the Howard Frankland Bridge.
Overall improvements totaling $451.5 million will stretch from 54th Avenue South to the Howard Frankland. The project is currently in the design phase, and Moss said FDOT has acquired two right-of-way parcels for the northern section, which is on the state’s Moving Florida Forward list.
He told the council that the project is an FDOT priority, and officials are working to obtain funding.
Other local projects
The agency is also constructing nine new pedestrian crossings, extending 11 turn lanes and converting 36 medians to directional openings on 4th Street North. That project extends from 30th Avenue to 94th Avenue, and Moss said it would promote safety in the area.
He expects construction to complete in the summer of 2024.
Work to improve operations and safety along 5th Avenue North from Tyrone Boulevard to 4th Street North will commence later this year. FDOT is now acquiring easements to create new pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.
Moss expects a project to reconfigure 34th Street South from 54th Avenue to 22nd Avenue South to conclude in late 2024. That would create a Bus and Turn (BAT) lane used along SunRunner routes.
Councilmember Gina Driscoll credited local FDOT officials for accommodating future transit options, like space for rail along the Howard Frankland. She also mentioned ongoing conversations surrounding transportation through a redeveloped Historic Gas Plant District and Tropicana Field site.
“But for now, everything from the SunRunner to helping us make pedestrian safety improvements – you guys have really been there for us as a city,” Driscoll added. “I’m just really proud of the work that we’re all doing together, and I can’t wait to see what we do next.”