Southbound lanes of Howard Frankland Bridge reopen after overhead signs installation

Aerial view of Howard Frankland Bridge construction

Minutes before 5 a.m. Tuesday, Howard Frankland Bridge's southbound lanes reopened ahead of schedule.

The Florida Department of Transportation shut down the southbound lanes of Interstate 275 at the bridge at 11 p.m. Monday with the expectation of reopening by 5 a.m. Tuesday. All lanes reopened around 4:50 a.m.

The closure was necessary for crews to safely install overhead signs without any traffic.

It's an important step in the Gateway Expressway Project which involves constructing two new two-lane elevated tolled roadways that will provide direct connections between U.S. Highway 19, Interstate 275, and the Bayside Bridge.

READ: Howard Frankland Bridge project on schedule for 2025 completion, FDOT says

"We have a lot of visitors and new people visiting Florida and the Tampa Bay area, so this is just one of the major projects we have planned to help keep motorists moving and keep businesses flowing," said FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson.

Once finished in 2023, the Gateway Expressway will include two new elevated toll roads connecting Bayside Bridge to I-275 and U.S. 19 to I-275. That traffic will funnel onto the Howard Frankland Bridge, which FDOT is currently replacing.  

"Yes, these projects will definitely work together, the Gateway Expressway project into the brand new Howard Frankland Bridge," said Carson.

FDOT said drivers are watching beam placement now and see deck construction starts this fall. The bridge replacement project is expected to be finished in 2025.

"We're about 51% done of all the pilings for the bridge foundations, that has all been driven. And we've got about 265 of the 549 bridge footings that have been constructed," said Carson.

There's more work ahead for bridge replacement and the Gateway Expressway, all to accommodate Tampa Bay's growth.

"It means a lot of construction," Carson explained, "but it also means a lot of relief and more capacity is coming our way."