I-275 expansion opposition plan would turn part of interstate into boulevard

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Traffic reports tell us about problems on I-275, but Michelle Cookson tells us the interstate is actually the problem.

"The interstate was driven through the heart of our city and it's had very detrimental effects for a long time," she says.

Cookson is with the community group Sunshine Citizens, which opposed the TBX plan to expand I-275 and add toll lanes. Cookson says when the interstate was constructed decades ago, it divided neighborhoods in places like Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights.

Walls and bridges, she says, impeded pedestrian and bicycle traffic and discouraged a sense of community.  

Cookson says opposition to TBX helped galvanize community groups and residents in advocating for better mass transit and searching for new alternatives. One such alternative, called Boulevard Tampa, was put forth by Josh Frank, an urban planner who envisions replacing an 11-mile stretch of I-275 -- from north of the I-4 interchange to Bearrs Avenue -- with a grand boulevard.

It would be constructed at ground level and would include lanes for cars, bicycles, and mass transit, possibly light rail.

It would restore the historical Tampa street grid, prior to construction of the interstate.

Last week the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization voted unanimously to underwrite a study to see if Boulevard Tampa is feasible. Cookson says it's a sign Tampa may be ready to look beyond adding more lanes to solve transportation troubles.