A project to improve conditions at the I-75 interchange at Big Bend Rd. received a $25 million federal grant to help pay for it.

By Brad Stager

Tucked away on Tampa Bay’s eastern edge in Southern Hillsborough County, residents of Apollo Beach and nearby communities rely on major roads like I-75 to access work and recreation beyond the SouthShore area.

Growth in people and cars has made it difficult at peak traffic times to get on, or even off, the interstate highway at Big Bend Rd., but a $25 million federal Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant will help pay for modifications to the interchange that officials say will improve the situation.

The grant will help pay for what is called the I-75/Big Bend Road Mobility and Access Project. Changes include reconstructing the interchange ramps as well as widening a 2-mile section of Big Bend Rd. from four lanes to six, with bicycle lanes and multi-use paths as part of the design.

The stop sign-controlled intersection of Old Big Bend Rd. and Bullfrog Creek Rd. will be changed to a traffic roundabout with new traffic signals, lighting and stormwater drainage systems installed where needed within the project footprint, which extends from from Covington Gardens Dr. to Simmons Loop.

The total cost of the project is about $91.9 million, with construction scheduled to begin in late 2021 and complete in 2024.

County Commissioner Sandra Murman works with transportation agencies and advocates to develop policy and solutions for residents, and she said in a press release that this new funding will help pave the way to easier commutes and improved safety for the growing number of people moving to the area.

“Our goal is to create a safe and enhanced travel experience for residents and employees in the SouthShore region by addressing the congestion and safety deficiencies that currently exist on Big Bend Rd. and at the I-75 interchange, and the grant will help us achieve this vision.”

Hillsborough County officials have identified the Big Bend Rd. corridor as one of the area’s most dangerous, citing the large increase in traffic volume and drivers’ failure to properly yield to right-of-way traffic as the major factors in accidents and say that the changes will improve the situation.