Motorists heading south on Interstate 275 this morning should be prepared to squeeze the steering wheel and grit their teeth.
That’s probably what Eric Hermanson will do on his work commute as he approaches the exit 41A ramp that loops commuters onto southbound Dale Mabry Highway.
That exit was closed at 5 a.m. today and will never reopen.
"I’m just imagining a headache," said Hermanson, 29, of Seffner. "It’s not the first thing anyone wants to deal with first thing in the morning."
Commuters exiting onto Dale Mabry will take the former exit 41B, which will now be labeled 41A/B. It will have four turn lanes – two heading southbound and two northbound.
Hermanson imagines what the scene will be like.
"You’re going to have people backed up and people not knowing what’s going on," Hermanson said. "There’ll be mass confusion."
The Florida Department of Transportation closed the ramp because it needs the land for interstate reconstruction, said FDOT spokesman John McShaffrey.
The closure of the exit ramp is a part of the larger reconstruction of I-275. This phase starts at the Hillsborough River, heads south to Memorial Highway and includes northbound I-275. It’s all expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.
McShaffrey knows this morning will be a challenge. FDOT has placed portable electronic signs on I-275 southbound and will use overhead digital signs to remind drivers of the exit change, he said.
Engineers and contractors will be on hand to monitor traffic flow, and the timing of traffic signals at the end of the ramp and on Dale Mabry will be changed to accommodate the new traffic patterns, McShaffrey said.
"We always anticipate that there are some that won’t adjust to the changes as quickly as others," McShaffrey said. "That will work itself out over a few days."
If a driver misses the exit, there’s no reason to despair, McShaffrey said. Drivers can continue less than a mile and exit on Lois Avenue. Take Lois south to Kennedy Boulevard or north to Cypress Avenue, he said.
Hermanson said it will take him awhile to get used to the loss of the southbound exit onto Dale Mabry.
"I’m going to miss it - a little bit of nostalgia for my exit 41A."