It’s vital for businesses in the Tampa Bay area to be able to connect with customers and clients across the United States efficiently and quickly.
With major interstate systems I-4, I-75 and I-275 running through the region, we are connected to major U.S. cities like Atlanta, Cincinnati, Orlando, and Detroit. Thanks to these interstate systems, those living and working in Tampa and Hillsborough County are able to reach more than 33 million consumers within an eight-hour drive. In addition to I-4, I-75 and I-275, the region offers access to major highways and routes, such as Highways 41 and 301.
As our population grows, a lot of changes are being made to accommodate an increase in traffic. Currently, stretches of I-275 from the Howard Frankland Bridge to the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa are being widened to four lanes in each direction. Other changes include a flatter roadway to increase visibility and to decrease the chance of accidents, improved interchanges to help move traffic on and off the interstate, and a wide median to decrease both the financial and communal impact when future improvements are needed.
Hillsborough County’s toll road system also offers a multitude of ways to travel throughout the region. The Veterans Expressway, owned and operated by the Florida Department of Transportation, is a north-south toll road that runs from State Road 60, just west of Tampa International Airport, to Dale Mabry Highway in the northern part of the county. Recent additions to the Veterans Expressway include two new travel lanes in each direction, essentially doubling the express route’s capacity, and an express lane for those who need to shave off a few more minutes to their commute. The Suncoast Parkway picks up at the end of the Veterans and runs north to U.S. Route 98 in Hernando County.
Owned and operated by the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway runs east to west, allowing travel from Gandy Boulevard to Brandon in roughly 20 minutes. One unique feature of the Selmon Expressway is the reversible express lanes, built above the traditional expressway, which create a direct route between downtown Tampa and Brandon. The direction of traffic on these express lanes varies based on the time of day, with the flow of traffic heading to downtown on weekday mornings and toward Brandon in the evenings and on weekends. This reversible express lane system has won many awards at the local, state, national, and international levels, including the 2008 Excellence in Highway Design award from the Federal Highway Administration.
The Lee Roy Selmon Expressway/I-4 Connector links Port Tampa Bay with I-4, creating a quick route for travelers as well as businesses moving products to and from the Port. The connector allows for trucks and transporters to be on a major interstate system, and on the way to their destination within a matter of minutes. With the I-4 Connector, travelers won’t hit a red light until Canada when traveling from I-4 to I-75.
In addition to the road systems, our region offers 500 miles of active railroad and siding tracks operated by CSX. One of the nation’s leading transportation suppliers, CSX maintains a major rail yard, an intermodal terminal, a TRANSFLO terminal, and an automotive distribution center in Tampa. The variety of rail offerings in Hillsborough County allows for companies to use alternative distribution methods for their goods and products.
A joint initiative between the Tampa Port Authority, CSX and Kinder Morgan Energy partners is also giving businesses alternate distribution options. The Gateway Rail Project is the first on-dock, multi-purpose unit train facility for ethanol and intermodal containers in Florida, allowing goods to be moved from ships to destinations quickly and more efficiently.
CSX’s rail infrastructure also provides critical connectivity from the Port Tampa Bay and Rockport Terminal to the U.S. rail system. CSX’s Rockport Terminals are deep-water port facilities on Tampa Bay used for exporting phosphate from Central Florida’s Bone Valley mining region. These facilities are located on more than 300 acres with over 25 miles of track, warehousing, and state-of-the-art loading systems.
Currently, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) provides safe, cost-effective public transportation. With over 200 various mass transit vehicles, including buses and vans, HART services 1,000 square miles of the county. Popular routes include the MetroRapid North-South, which runs north from downtown Tampa on Nebraska Avenue then east along Fletcher Avenue to the Telecom Park area. Riders are able to travel 17.5 miles in approximately 55 minutes, thanks to on-bus traffic signal priority. All HART buses and certain vans are equipped with bicycle racks, making it easier for commuters to continue their travel without relying on cars.
When it comes to public transportation, our community continues to explore and evaluate what options will work best for a region as diverse and expansive as ours.