Is Tampa Bay too tangled with traffic to keep baseball?

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There was a very interesting article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal recently. Written by reporter Janelle Irwin, the article discussed how bad Tampa Bay traffic congestion really is. According to the TTBJ, information from the Florida Department of Transportation states I-275 is at or above capacity throughout most of the region.

Capacity is the “maximum sustainable hourly flow rate at which persons or vehicles can be expected to pass through a point or uniform section of a land or roadway during a given time period,” according to FDOT.

The TBBJ also states:

I-275 operates at capacity from the Hillsborough County line to Kennedy Boulevard – think the span of the Howard Frankland Bridge at the hump past the Veteran’s interchange – and then again from Fowler Avenue to Fletcher Avenue, the two exits for the University of South Florida, which serves as Hillsborough County’s largest employment center.

In Pinellas County, I-275 is over capacity between the two downtown connectors and from 22nd Avenue North to Gandy Boulevard. Spans of interstate functioning at capacity run from Gandy to Roosevelt and from Ulmerton to the County line. That’s basically the entire stretch of I-275 from 22nd Avenue North in St. Petersburg to Fletcher Avenue that is running at or above capacity.

The TBBJ published the following map of Hillsborough County to depict the results of the Dept of Transportation:

hillsboroughcomap_xxtrafficjuly2016

The red lines are every road that is at or over capacity. That’s what my GPS looks like every day.

Of course, Tropicana Field is not in the middle of this traffic mess. It is on the far outside. 22 blocks south of the Pinellas congestion, in an area that includes probably close to if not less than 25% of the region’s population.

This a major problem for baseball in Tampa Bay. The region not only needs a new baseball stadium, it also needs a major transit transformation. There is talk that if traffic doesn’t improve, Tampa Bay could lose out on businesses far more important than baseball. The Rays have survived with traffic and congestion as it is. It has not been a prosperous survival, but they have been profitable, thanks to other revenue streams.

But congestion could cost Tampa Bay other corporations who decide not to relocate or build in the area due to the traffic mess.

Both expanding the highways, increasing mass transit, and building a new baseball stadium cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The area cannot build a new baseball field and not improve transit. And plunging all the money into transit and telling the Rays and MLB to fund the stadium themselves might mean the team moves to other pastures.

So a lot of money needs to be spent on many projects simultaneously.

As far as other baseball in the area, Bradenton’s McKechnie Field, Dunedin’s Florida Auto Exchange Stadium also sit outside the traffic congestion, but Minor League teams only need far less people in the stands to fill the ballpark. But with four Minor League alternatives closer and more convenient, why should Tampa Bay residents regularly deal with the stress of overcrowded traffic congestion to see baseball?

The impact of traffic on baseball attendance in Tampa Bay can not be understated. It is one of the most under-understood parts of the problem.

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3 comments for “Is Tampa Bay too tangled with traffic to keep baseball?

  1. Doug
    July 11, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I think you have jumped to a conclusion too quickly. Traffic was no impediment to the Braves’ location of their new stadium…and that traffic makes the Tampa Bay traffic look like child’s play. It will be interesting to see what impact the Atlanta Metro traffic, especially in the NW quadrant will have when that opens next year. Then I think you can begin to draw some conclusions..

    • Michael Lortz
      July 12, 2016 at 4:10 am

      The Braves new stadium has many new problems of its own, with funding and transit. Going to be very interesting.

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