Tampa celebrates plan to make Ashley Drive pedestrian-friendly

The city of Tampa is about to make another big change downtown. A raised section of Ashley Drive that gives drivers access to and from Interstate 275 will be lowered to street-level, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

"We are going back to the original street grid, the way it was laid out by the founders of this community," said Mayor Jane Castor during an event to celebrate the federal grant money that makes the project possible. 

The city says the overpasses above the southbound Interstate 275 off-ramp, and the overpass above northbound I-275 onramp, have been blocking redevelopment of a valuable four-acre parking lot. 

Rendering of Ashley Drive, facing north, after removal of northbound I-275 onramp

Along with the purchase of a nearby parcel, currently occupied by a military surplus store, the city hopes to develop a new space for stores, affordable downtown housing and pedestrian walkways.

"We have to ensure that we are very, very thoughtful and inclusive in that design and in carrying out that vision," Castor said. "We have to look at history and not be so quick to discard some of the ideas that existed in the past."

The city also plans to connect Royal and Harrison streets back together near the Ashley Dr. location.

The city has not announced if or how the 20,000 daily drivers who use the Ashley Drive interchange will get on and off the interstate.

The Ashley Drive project is part of a larger initiative to make downtown more inviting. 

The grid of streets around Amalie Arena has been straightened and unburdened by obstacles. Bike lanes have been added through downtown and Water Street has undergone a complete transformation. 

The projects to revamp Ashley Drive and Royal and Harrison streets will cost roughly $10.71 million, according to the city. About half of the money comes from the federal infrastructure bill passed in 2021.