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Interstate 75

Interstate 75 is the longest Interstate highway in Florida, traveling 470.88 miles through the state. Beginning in Hialeah, located northwest of Miami, at an interchange with Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway) and Florida 924 (Gratigny Parkway), Interstate 75 parallels Interstate 95 for its first 19 miles. At an interchange with Interstate 595 and Florida 869 toll (Sawgrass Expressway) west of Fort Lauderdale, Interstate 75 turns west towards the Everglades and the Southwest Florida coast, crossing the state along Alligator Alley (tolled facility). Interstate 75 resumes its northward journey at Naples west of Collier County 951 and serves the Southwest and Gulf Coast cities of Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton as it makes its way toward Tampa. From Tampa northward, Interstate 75 moves away from the Gulf Coast as it continues its journey through north central Florida toward Georgia and beyond. Interstate 75 provides the primary route to metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Detroit as it makes its way to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where the interstate ultimately ends before crossing the International Bridge into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (Canada).

In the 1958 original plan, Interstate 75 was not slated to extend south of Tampa. The major north-south freeway was instead planned to culminate its southbound journey in Tampa at an interchange with Interstate 4 near downtown. However, it became clear that Southwest Florida needed a freeway connection. To that end, in 1968, the extension to Miami was made part of the planned Interstate network for Florida. A few alignment changes and approximately 25 years later, Interstate 75 was fully completed to Hialeah. At the same time, Interstate 4's western terminus was retracted to Tampa, since a proposed extension to St. Petersburg Beach on the Gulf Coast was never constructed.

Typical scene for Interstate 75 through Southwest Florida. Looking southward from Charlotte County 768, steady traffic moves along Interstate 75 as it continues on its way toward Fort Myers and Naples. Photo taken July 9, 2011.

The 1968 plan was to run Interstate 75 through Tampa and St. Petersburg, overtaking a portion of Interstate 4 and the Sunshine Skyway (U.S. 19). Former Interstate 4 over the Howard Frankland Bridge was recommissioned as Interstate 75 in 1971. The bypass proposed around the east side of Tampa and Tampa Bay would have been referred to as Interstate 75E, and it would have incorporated a portion of what was once proposed as the West Coast Turnpike in the early 1960s. The West Coast Turnpike was considered as a potential toll corridor from the vicinity of Lutz south to Palmetto and then south to Naples, connecting to Alligator Alley (former Florida 84). Since suffixed routes for interstates were no longer recommended by the mid 1970s, Interstate 75E was briefly renumbered as a potential Interstate 275.

Rather than have Interstate 75 pass through the metropolitan areas, it was deemed too expensive to maintain the Interstate 75 corridor to a level that would accommodate that level of traffic; a study in 1972 indicated that the freeway would need to be improved significantly within four years. To keep through traffic minimized through Tampa and St. Petersburg, Interstate 75 was ultimately redirected to the bypass route, while the route through the metropolitan areas would become Interstate 275. By 1980, Interstate 275 was signed in its current configuration from a point north of Tampa through to just south of downtown St. Petersburg, as construction of the remaining portion of the interstate was still several years away.

As for Interstate 75, it followed the once-planned West Coast Turnpike south, closely paralleling that corridor, but built as a free limited-access Interstate highway (no toll). During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Interstate 75 was built between Lutz and Naples, with sections opened in increments. The route from Lutz to Naples was completed in 1982. Some opposition to the freeway, along with required environmental mitigation delayed completion, especially for the route within the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.

Continuing south (east) from Naples, Interstate 75 was planned to continue east via the two-lane Alligator Alley (former Florida 838, then Florida 84, now hidden Florida 93) to metropolitan South Florida. The process to bring the Alley to Interstate standards took most of the 1980s, and it was completed in 1992. Environmental mitigation (including under crossings for the endangered Florida Panther), improved drainage, a second set of travel lanes, and improved interchanges were all completed. Tolls were originally proposed to be removed once the freeway upgrade was complete, but continuing maintenance of the Alligator Alley requires that the tolls remain in place. (Several news articles from the late 1980s in Naples Daily News and Marco Island Eagle promised the tolls would be removed on Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) once the freeway upgrade was completed in 1992, but the tolls are still in place today.)

The current alignment of Interstate 75 between Hialeah and Naples is not the planned one. The original plan, publicized by Florida DOT in 1971, was to route Interstate 75 along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) through the Everglades, then follow what is now Toll Florida 836 (Dolphin Expressway) (formerly East-West Expressway) through Miami, with connections to Interstate 95 and Interstate 395. Had this plan gone forward, it is possible that Interstate 75 could have been signed further east, crossing into Miami Beach.

This plan was considered between 1971 and 1974, but it was shelved because of variety of oppositions to using U.S. 41 for a new Interstate highway. Business owners and property owners who stood to gain financially from Alligator Alley, which was already built, could see a loss of revenue if the Interstate avoided them. In addition, the concept of constructing a new freeway through the Everglades also heightened environmental concerns. Alligator Alley, a two-lane highway along Florida 84, was a glaring example of poor environmental planning for road construction in the Everglades. Finally, since Toll Florida 836 (Dolphin Expressway) had begun construction, it was too late to go back to the drawing board to design and construct that freeway to a higher Interstate standards. The cost for future upgrading of the Dolphin Expressway would be expensive and deemed wasteful, since the state would be tearing down the expressway as soon as it just was finished being built.

In 1977, the alignment for Interstate 75 changed as a result of this input. Leaving U.S. 41 on its own route from Naples to Miami, Interstate 75 would instead cross the Everglades on an upgraded Alligator Alley that would connect with the planned Interstate 595 in western Broward County. Alligator Alley was still two lanes in 1977, and it would be brought up to Interstate standards by 1992, the year Interstate 75 was considered completed in Southwest and South Florida. As part of this project, Alligator Alley was improved for drainage, water flow, and animal migration, thus creating a more environmentally friendly freeway corridor. True to its name, alligators swim in the swampy areas adjacent to the Alley.

In 1980, construction on Interstate 75 started in southwest Broward County. A 4.1-mile section between Florida 818 (Griffin Road) and Florida 820 (Pines Boulevard) was opened to traffic in August 1984. By October 1986, the entire section from the U.S. 27 and Alligator Alley interchange southeast to Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway) in Miami-Dade County was open. Shortly thereafter, work began to upgrade Alligator Alley to Interstate standards. When it was completed in 1992, Interstate 75 was finished in its entirety from Hialeah to Sault Ste. Marie.

When Interstate 75 was completed in 1986, southwest Broward County and northeast Miami-Dade County was largely uninhabited. The land was entirely farmland, and the eight-lane superhighway seemed excessive given the low traffic volumes. On the sides of the highway, grazing cows were a common sight. This changed, however, as the areas around Interstate 75 developed.

With key connections to primary east-west arterial routes (such as Miramar Parkway and Pines Boulevard), the area rapidly expanded into a new suburban area. The cities of Weston, Pembroke Pines, and Miramar grew enormously through the 1990s. For example, between 1990 and 2000, the city of Pembroke Pines doubled in population, from 65,452 to 137,427. Houses, big box commercial centers, and new road networks developed through this decade. Many of the people living in these communities commute daily to jobs in Miami and live in suburban Broward County. Interstate 75 gained a good deal of additional traffic, and today the highway can experience long commute delays, with average daily traffic counts of 141,500 vehicles daily between the Miami-Dade County line and Miramar Parkway (Exits 7AB) in 2002.

The construction of Interstate 75 significantly altered the face of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, and it introduced a new traffic conduit onto Florida 821 (Homestead Extension of the Florida's Turnpike, or HEFT) and Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway). Even though real estate is at a premium on Florida 826, there is plenty of room for expansion on Interstate 75 and on the Turnpike. As of early 2005, Interstate 75 is generally six to eight lanes wide, but it has a very wide median as well as ample right-of-way along the sides. So theoretically, I-75 can be widened to 12 lanes and still have room for light rail without any homes or businesses being disrupted. It has the capability to become a massive Los Angeles-style high speed freeway/transitway such as Interstate 105 (Anderson Freeway) or Interstate 110 (Harbor Freeway) in Los Angeles.

Interstate 75 Florida Highway Guides

Many thanks to Justin Cozart and Jason Learned for the background information about Florida's portion of Interstate 75. This information was originally posted on TropicalTurnpikes.com and is reproduced with permission by Justin Cozart.

Scenes Pertaining to Interstate 75
The Broward County rest area along Alligator Alley functions similar to a service area, with access from both directions of the toll road. Frontage roads wind west from the facility to access adjacent boat ramps and the northbound side of I-75. Photo taken 12/23/13.
I-75 northbound trailblazer posted at the frontage road looping west from the Broward County rest area to boat ramps nearby and the loop ramp for Naples. Photo taken 12/23/13.
Small guide signs and trailblazers direct motorists from the Broward County rest area frontage road toward the southbound on-ramp for I-75 to Miami. Photos taken 12/23/13.
Interstate 75 trailblazer posted at the Everglades Wildlife Management Area recreation area near milepost 41. Photo taken 03/04/14.
Shields for Interstate 75 posted at the Collier County rest area direct motorists exiting the facility onto an access road to the northbound side ramps and the southbound return ramp toward Miami. East/West bannered shields for I-75 were later replaced with North/South ones. Photo taken 12/28/03.
Through the Everglades, Interstate 75 follows a straight east-west alignment along the tolled Alligator Alley (Everglades Parkway). The interstate lies along the majority of the former Florida 84 alignment between Collier County 951 and Interstate 595 near Fort Lauderdale. Prior to the early 1990s, Alligator Alley was only two lanes wide. It was expanded to four lanes, and provisions were made to improve water flow, construct wildlife crossings for the endangered Florida panther, and make the project less intrusive to the environment. Nevertheless, the freeway rests on fill for much of the route from Naples east to near Fort Lauderdale. The first three images of the Alley was taken from the Florida 29 overpass (Exit 80) facing westbound, while the fourth image faces east from the interchange. The Florida 29 overpass at Exit 80 is one of the few overpasses between Exits 23 and 101. Photo taken 12/28/03. Second photo taken 12/28/03. Third photo taken 06/25/05. Fourth photo taken 06/25/05.
These views show the drainage ditches that line both sides of Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) as it travels through the Big Cypress National Preserve section. Alligators can often be spotted in the water-filled ditches or lounging on the banks of the ditches. Photos taken 06/25/05.

Sun-bleached pavement surrounded by green grasses and trees make for a familiar sight along eastbound Interstate 75 across Alligator Alley and the everglades. The right of way along Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) is extra wide to allow for people who doze off along the long, straight road. Photos taken 06/25/05.
In Manatee County, this junction Interstate 75 shield is posted on westbound Moccasin Wallow Road prior to meeting the interstate. Photos taken 12/28/03.
Pasco County 41 (Blanton Road) intersects Interstate 75 at Exit 293 near the community of Blanton. North Interstate 75 leads motorists to Ocala while south Interstate 75 leads motorists toward Tampa. Photos taken 04/01/04.

Photo Credits:
  • 2003-12-28 by AARoads.
  • 2004-04-01 by Unknown.
  • 2005-06-25 by Unknown.
  • 2013-12-23 by AARoads.
  • 2014-03-04 by AARoads and Chris Kalina.

Page Updated 04-10-2014.

 
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