Anybody who regularly uses Interstate 275 must have cursed its planners more than once. The highway is constantly being repaired and expanded; yet the love-hate relationship commuters have with it has, like the traffic congestion, not changed. But it’s not today’s planners of such infrastructure that should bear the blame. If anything, it’s bold city planning that is needed to solve long-term problems like I-275 is likely to pose in the near future.
The interstate was built at a time when cars seemed to be the way of the future. In the early ’70s there were nowhere near as many cars, making a highway connecting the Tampa Bay metropolitan area with the already-existing Interstate 4 the right solution. Today though, when the smallest traffic accident causes thousands of individuals to be late for work, this idea has to be re-examined.
Mobility has been a foundation of the American dream. The right to “freely associate” is anchored in the Constitution, which one could argue includes the right to move freely.
But the simplistic idea of thousands of individuals getting into cars every day must be rethought and the nature of I-275 makes it a prime candidate for bold, new city design.
Since an overwhelming part of the automobile traffic that uses the highway every day consists of commuters, there is no reason why each car should only hold one passenger. To give the incentive to carpool, special lanes could provide short-term help. A lane reserved for cars holding more than one passenger are common in other larger cities — why not Tampa?
In the long-term, though, even carpool lanes cannot be the answer.
While it seems the Department of Transportation cannot add lanes and expansions fast enough, the highway can only be expanded so much. Other methods of transportation, such as a light rail or a better bus system, need to be considered.
While citizens may balk at the cost of such proposals at first, they should consider the time they invest daily by sitting in deadlocked traffic.