St. Petersburg, Florida -- Lyle Wood, a 10 News viewer and executive producer of the syndicated radio show "The Science Minute," recently contacted us with concerns over the safety and potential for increased back-ups where the new I-4 Connector merges with westbound I-4.
His primary concerns centered around the length of the merge, the fact that the merge is on the lefthand side of the highway, and the possible dangers posed to drivers trying to cut across three lanes of traffic to access the entrance ramp to northbound I-275.
Mr. Wood conducted his own study, driving the Connector into his area of concern and searching videos of others who had done the same, and submitted the following videos to 10 News:
The Florida Department of Transportation's John McShaffrey told me that the department understands that a movement requiring crossing so many lanes is challenging, but that the goal of this setup is to prepare the Connector for future cohesion with improvements that will be made to the "downtown interchange" or the I-4/I-275 interchange, known locally as "malfunction junction". However, despite the fact that there is a master plan for the junction in place, the project has no timeline, and McShaffrey says construction will definitely not begin in the next five years.
The downtown interchange overhaul is anticipated to cost upwards of a billion dollars.
McShaffrey does believe that the I-275 widening project, which he says should allow for southbound traffic to shift to the new wider span by the end of 2014, will help alleviate congestion on westbound I-4, allowing northbound I-275 travelers to cross more easily. Meanwhile, he says drivers intending to access northbound I-275 may want to choose another option besides the Connector's entry into westbound I-4.
Lyle Wood says he hopes the I-275 widening will help, but for now, he will be avoiding what he believes to be a dangerous merge requiring "very quick reflexes which most drivers just don't have."
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