Big road projects for Bay Area drivers to look out for in 2021

The drop in daily commuting during the pandemic allowed state transportation officials to accelerate several road projects across the Bay Area. 

The new year brings big projects. Some are just starting while others are almost done.

Here are three road projects that local drivers should keep an eye on in 2021:

Congestion relief on Big Bend Road at Interstate 75

Big Bend Road is projected to see a 70% increase in traffic volume over the next 20 years, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. One of the improvements here will include a free-flow entrance onto I-75 from westbound Big Bend Road. 

"That's a lot of growth," said Kris Carson, FDOT spokesperson. "A lot of new people moving to Hillsborough County and there's a lot of traffic."

FDOT officials said it will remove the delay that usually backs up all the way to U.S. Highway 301. There will be a new northbound on-ramp and a new southbound off-ramp for westbound Big Bend Road.

"This will eliminate the need to cross BBR to get on or off I-75 from the North. The storage area at the base of the I-75 northbound off-ramp will be increased. An additional left turn lane onto BBR westbound will be added," according to FDOT.

Crews will build additional lanes too. A new left lane from the southbound I-75 ramp to westbound Big Bend Road will be added. It would create a "triple left."

"A dual right turn lane controlled by a signal from the SB I-75 ramp to eastbound BBR will be added," FDOT said. "The southbound I-75 exit lane approaching to BBR will be lengthened."

Big Bend Road will increase from a four-lane divided road to six lanes between Covington Garden Drive and Simmons Loop. There will also be "enhanced pedestrian, bicycle and bus facilities."

Bridges on Old Big Bend Road and Big Bend Road will be rebuilt.

This project breaks ground next year. The construction cost is estimated to be $93.4 million.

Improvements and changes to the Bayway Bridge

Officials said it’s time to say "goodbye" to the drawbridge here, and say "hello" to a new $56.8 million design that will save the state time and money in maintenance. 

The project for this bridge that connects Tierra Verde and Isla Del Sol island will replace the existing two-lane bascule bridge with a two-lane, high-level fixed bridge. Crews will repave the existing State Road 679 roadway between State Road 682 and the new bridge.

It will also replace a seawall south of the bridge along SR-679 in Pinellas County.

Crews will be putting a wider, 5-foot sidewalk too, along with a 12-foot-wide shared-use path. The project also includes a roundabout at Madonna Boulevard and 1st Street. 

Work started in 2018 and should be completed in summer 2021. 

Howard Frankland Bridge construction

This project started this year. FDOT officials warn there will be major lane shifts on the Tampa side before it's completed.

"During the beginning of 2021, we're going to shift the travel lanes towards the inside shoulders of the bridge so we can allow the construction vehicles to enter and exit the work zone safely," Carson explained. "We just need motorists to take note of that change."

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The new bridge should open in 2025. 

Over the summer, Governor Ron DeSantis direct FDOT to accelerate the timeline for the $864-million Howard Frankland Bridge project by nearly a month.

Workers began laying the groundwork to build new southbound lanes on the Howard Frankland Bridge with four general-purpose lanes, pedestrian lanes, and express lanes.

When all is said and done, the existing southbound lanes will convert to northbound, and the old bridge will be demolished. 

The new bridge will consist of eight lanes:

  • Four general use lanes, (Tampa to St. Petersburg) 
  • Four Express lanes - two lanes from the St. Petersburg side toward Tampa and two lanes from the Tampa side toward St. Petersburg.
  • A bicycle/pedestrian pathway separated from the roadway

It’s a massive rebuild spanning six years, so the shortening of the timeline is relatively small. It’s estimated to be complete by late 2025.