Tampa Bay, Florida

The Tampa skyline with the Crosstown Expressway in the foreground.

According to indexdotcom, Tampa Bay is a metropolitan area in the US state of Florida, on the west coast of the state, surrounding Tampa Bay. The main cities are Tampa with 387,000 inhabitants, St. Petersburg with 258,000 and Clearwater with 117,000 inhabitants. The total agglomeration has 3,220,000 inhabitants (2021).


The conurbation is located on the central west coast of Florida, surrounding the Tampa Bay. The conurbation is part of an urbanized coastal zone from Citrus Springs to Venice, a distance of 220 kilometers. The central metropolitan area is centered around the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater. In addition, there are quite a lot of medium-sized suburbs. The metropolitan area is actually made up of four parts, the St. Petersburg Peninsula, the Tampa Region, the urbanized coastal zone around Sarasota and Bradenton, and the urbanized coastal zone north of Tampa. The metropolitan area is located 120 kilometers southwest of Orlando, 330 kilometers northwest of Miami and 270 kilometers southwest of Jacksonville.

The conurbation is the second largest conurbation in the state of Florida after Miami. It is the 19th largest conurbation in the United States. The agglomeration is growing by an average of 50,000 inhabitants per year. The urban area is surrounded by swamps and woodland and has a long urbanized coast. The coastline consists of lagoons with peninsulas and barrier islands that separate the mainland from the Gulf of Mexico. The area has a humid subtropical climate and the city is also called the lightning capital of North America. Hurricanes can occur, but usually come from the east and have largely attenuated by then.

Population growth

Tampa is located in Hillsborough County. St. Petersburg is located in Pinellas County.

Year Hillsborough Pinellas Pasco Hernando total grow
1950 250,000 159,000 21,000 7,000 437,000
1960 398,000 375,000 37,000 11,000 821,000 +384,000
1970 490,000 522,000 76,000 17,000 1,105,000 +284,000
1980 647,000 728,000 194,000 44,000 1,613,000 +508,000
1990 834,000 852,000 281,000 101,000 2,068,000 +455,000
2000 999,000 921,000 345,000 131,000 2,396,000 +328,000
2010 1,229,000 917,000 465,000 173,000 2,784,000 +388,000
2020 1,463,000 959,000 566,000 195,000 3,183,000 +399.000
2021 1,478,000 957,000 584,000 201,000 3,220,000 +37,000


Hillsborough County

Hillsborough County includes the city of Tampa and the suburbs to its north, as well as the suburbs on the east side of Tampa Bay. The county is not yet fully built and growing rapidly. The bulk of the highways of the Tampa Bay region are located in Hillsborough County.

Pinellas County

Pinellas County includes the coastal suburbs as well as the core city of St. Petersburg. Since 2000, the county has been completely built up and population growth has slowed. Pinellas County is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States with no freeways. Only I-275 passes through southeastern Pinellas County. The roads in Pinellas County are considered some of the most dangerous in the United States due to high levels of collisions and conflicts between heavy traffic and slow traffic.

Pasco County

Pasco County forms the northern suburban area. No clear center can be identified, although the population density along the coast is greater than inland. The suburban areas are highly fragmented. Pasco County is still growing rapidly.

Hernando County

Hernando County is again north of Pasco County and includes the city of Spring Hill. The coastal region is densely populated, but the interior is sparsely populated. Between 2000 and 2010, it was one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.

Road network

Tampa Bay’s highway network.

The metropolitan area has relatively few highways, much of which is formed by Interstate 75, which only really enters the urban area in a few places. Interstate 4 begins in Tampa and runs to Orlando and Daytona Beach. The Interstate 275 bridges the Tampa Bay twice and connects St. Petersburg with Tampa. There are virtually no commuter highways, which means that the pressure on the small highway network and in particular the underlying road network is quite great. Pinellas County is home to nearly a million people, but they have to make do with just 15 miles of I-275 that runs through the extreme southeast of the region. Opposition from local residents has slowed or even stopped the construction of many highways. In response to this, the underlying road network is quite extensive, with many urban arterials with 2×2 or 2×3 lanes. The urbanized coasts to the north and south of the agglomeration are home to many retirees and little commuter traffic is to be expected. The State Road 589 connects the northern coastal region to Tampa and the Crosstown Expressway runs through downtown Tampa.

List of freeways

name length first opening last opening max AADT 2013
Interstate 4 23 km 1960 1963 157,000
Interstate 75 61 km 1983 1985 147,000
Interstate 175 2 km 1980 1980 35,000
Interstate 275 102 km 1962 198x 197,000
Interstate 375 2 km 1978 1979 28,000
Veterans Expressway 5 km 1994 1994 10,000
Suncoast Parkway 86 km 1994 2001 120,000
Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway 24 km 197x 2021 50,000


Tampa Bay’s highway network was developed relatively late. I-4 was completed in 1961, connecting Tampa to Orlando. I-75 was initially only planned as far as Tampa and St. Petersburg, via what is now part I-275 through St. Petersburg. Later it was decided to extend I-75 via Naples to Miami and during the 1970s the highway was built east of Tampa. In the 1970s, a plan was developed for a large highway network in the Tampa Bay region, but a large part of this has not been built, especially Pinellas County is therefore very poorly served. I-175, I-275 and I-375 around St. Petersburg opened to traffic around 1980, although the Sunshine Skyway Bridge only opened in 1987. The first toll road was built between 1975 and 1987, State Road 618 through Tampa. The Veterans Expressway, numbered 589 State Road, opened in 1994. It was extended far north in 2001.


The congestion in the region will be tackled with the large-scale construction of express lanes on I-4, I-75 and I-275. This project is called ‘Tampa Bay Express’ and involves the construction of toll lanes on approximately 130 kilometers of highway around Tampa. Costing approximately $6 billion, the project was approved by the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization on June 22, 2016.


Due to the limited number of highway kilometers that can be used as a commuter route, the pressure on the existing highways is high. There are many traffic jams, and the underlying road network is also busy. In particular, the Howard Frankland Bridge, I-275 is very busy.

Tampa Bay, Florida