Residents of Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights are calling on Florida officials to demolish Interstate 275.
The effort comes after an urban planner suggested the Florida Department of Transportation review 275, which cuts through Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The highway is “expendable” and has damaged neighborhoods, Joshua Frank said.
In his Master’s degree thesis, Frank proposed an alternative to the Tampa Bay Expressway highway expansion program, known as TBX, the Times explains. “Tear it down,” said Frank, who is the vice president and president-elect of the non-profit Urban Charrette. The group promotes urban design practices within communities.
Frank proposed turning the Interstate into a “wide, landscaped boulevard,” the Times explains. That boulevard would have bike and walking paths, in addition to light commuter rail. The boulevard would be lined with trees, similar to the Embarcadero in San Francisco or the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Frank told the Times. Frank’s idea is called, "Bifurcation to Boulevard."
“Frank described the current north-south highway as primarily a local expressway for people living and working between the University of South Florida (USF) and downtown Tampa,” the Times reports.
The highway has wreaked havoc on neighborhoods, Frank said. He pointed to air pollution, noise levels and lower property values, the Times reports. He called for “reintegrating” six neighborhoods split by 275. That would improve residents’ quality of life and promote economic activity, he argued.
The Florida Department of Transportation is currently planning to expand the Interstate, which would lead to the demolishment of more homes and businesses. TBX is a "major interstate improvement program to modernize key interchanges, replace aging infrastructure, and improve mobility on portions of I-275 and I-4,” FDOT spokesperson Kristen Carson told the Times.
Carson said the agency is responding to the community’s concerns. FDOT slowed down the TBX plans after opposition from the community. Community meetings will be held by the end of May, according to the agency.
A neighborhood group held a meeting Tuesday and asked FDOT to consider Frank’s proposal, the Times reports. "They had at least 10 people here," said Kimberly Overman, president of the Heights Urban Core Chamber. "They are very interested. What boulevards do is open up opportunities."
Reaction on social media proved mix. “I've studied urban planning for years. Making roads bigger usually makes traffic worse. Tampa highways are ridiculous and ineffective. We're past that point and need efficient public transportation. There are too many people here now to rely on highways as our sole method of transportation. In other words, the nightmare will continue to get worse until we invest heavily in mass transit and stop trying to make the roads bigger,” one person said in response to the Times article.
“Interesting concept. I don't think tearing down 275 is the best option but expanding it isn't the solution either. FDOT should be inventing in transit and intelligent transportation systems,” another person said.
Others said 275 is too important. “I don't think this guy realizes how important 275 is. There are tens of thousands of people using the road,” one person said in part.