By LINDA CHION KENNEY
With the ongoing interest in real estate in and around Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and Riverview, open houses are a common occurrence, and that includes for construction underway that connects the dots for suburban motorists traveling to and from the rapidly growing and congested Big Bend area.
The construction open houses, slated for Tuesday, June 7, concern the interchange improvement project at Interstate 75 and Big Bend Road (Exit 426). The $81.7 million project, which kicked off in December, involves new entrance and exit ramps, road widening, bridge work and traffic signal improvements.
Florida Department of Transportation officials say the Interchange improvement work is expected to be completed in September 2025. The project is part of an overall Big Bend Road Corridor Improvement Project, which also includes work on U.S. 41 to Covington Garden Drive and work on Simmons Loop to U.S. Highway 301.
The components of the interchange project will be addressed at both in-person and virtual open house sessions, starting with the 11 a.m. Open Virtual Tour. Virtual attendees also will be able to ask questions, through the online chat function, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with online accessibility to informational construction materials available as well.
The in-person, drop-in open house is scheduled for 4:30 to 7 p.m. at South Bay Church in Riverview, at 13498 South U.S. 301. Project staff will be on hand to answer questions from attendees, who will be able to review construction maps and documents. No formal presentation will be given.
Project details include widening Big Bend Road between Covington Garden Drive and Simmons Loop, from a four-lane divided road to six lanes, featuring enhanced pedestrian, bicycle and bus facilities, and also adding a left turn lane onto westbound Big Bend Road, to increase the storage area at the base of the northbound I-75 exit ramp.
Traffic signal improvements include adding a signalized triple right-turn lane from the southbound I-75 exit ramp to eastbound Big Bend Road and adding signalized, dual-left turns from westbound Big Bend Road to southbound I-75 and eastbound Big Bend Road to northbound I-75.
Construction includes rebuilding both the Old Big Bend Road and Big Bend Road bridges and adding entrance and exit ramps from westbound Big Bend Road to and from northbound and southbound I-75.
Also involved, according to a March 21 notice, is extending the southbound I-75 exit ramp lane approaching Big Bend Road and adding dual right-turn lanes to westbound Big Bound Road.
Comments online a year ago at the Hillsborough County Engagement and Education Hub attest to the dire need for Big Bend Road corridor improvement projects.
“My biggest concern is the off ramp from exit 246 to Big Bend Road,” reads a comment from a Waterset resident, who noted it can take 30 minutes to travel less than 3 miles. “The infrastructure simply cannot support the boom in housing development.”
Another respondent noted that “in addition to the sheer amount of traffic, I feel like the timing and synchronization on the traffic lights exacerbates the problem.”
A third respondent expressed hopes that “the new overpass over I-75 that will connect Balm Road and Apollo Beach Boulevard will help to divert traffic off Big Bend Road” and that “pedestrian safety is factored into the widening, especially at the I-75 interchange.”
To view the online virtual tour, obtain additional project information or sign up to receive construction updates and traffic alerts, visit www.FDOTTampaBay.com/. Contact Melissa Chin, FDOT project manager, at 813-975-3573. Email: Melissa.Chin@dot.state.fl.us/.