TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Florida Department of Transportation unveiled the latest piece of its Interstate 275 renovation project Tuesday morning. But instead of the long-awaited dream commute, drivers faced more of a nightmare.
"We shifted traffic on Northbound 275 over the new bridge, crossing Dale Mabry and Himes. So traffic is in a new alignment, basically from Lois Avenue to east of Himes Avenue," FDOT's John McShaffrey said Tuesday.
Northbound traffic was at a standstill after the new lanes were opened up for the morning commute.
"Normally, during rush hour it's not unusual to see delays of some sort along Northbound 275 and the Howard Frankland Bridge. But right after they re-opened those travel lanes, we really started to see bad backups," Fox 13 traffic reporter Vanessa Ruffes said Tuesday.
Even after the morning rush, congestion continued well into the 10am hour.
FDOT says a fourth northbound lane should be open in a couple months. For now, the drive is less than desirable.
"I think the combination of the reduced lane widths, and we've got a new merge situation for the traffic entering from Himes and from Dale Mabry, and combined with visual distractions, a contractor was out there working behind a barrier wall. All those things tend to slow people down a little bit," McShaffrey said.
Once the section is complete, drivers will enjoy four 12-foot lanes through the I-275 downtown corridor, something that's proved successful in moving southbound traffic.
"Theoretically, it could get a lot better," Ruffes said.
Delays Tuesday morning spanned up to 30 minutes at peak times. Those delays are expected to ease up as drivers get used to the new pattern.
Next up, FDOT will work on widening Dale Mabry underneath the I-275 overpass. The whole project is expected to wrap up this summer.