Fletcher Ave near USF plans for pedestrian improvements

09/21/11 Janelle Irwin
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Plans for safety improvements to parts of Tampa's Fletcher Avenue in the University of South Florida area are closer to completion. But funding for the project still has not been secured.

Between 2006 and 2010 63 pedestrians were involved in accidents on Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska and 50th Street. There were three fatalities. Peter Brett, traffic operations manager for Hillsborough County said it is stats like those that prompted officials to dig deeper to fund bike lanes, extra crosswalks and signals, a side walk and islands in medians.

“We did a bike and pedestrian safety study of the county and this stretch of Fletcher was one of the highest crash rates in unincorporated county. So then we started looking at things we could do to bring that down. And we had some safety money that we were using, county money, and we put in for some grants through the DOT for some safety money and we’re scheduled to get that, about one and a half million.”

But Brett said the grants aren’t guaranteed. Traffic operations may need to look to the county to fund more of the project. He said his department hopes to have the master plan finalized by early 2012 and funding secured by mid-year. From there, officials would begin the bid process for construction. Whether or not that will happen though, is still up in the air.

“I can’t say with certainty that it’s going to happen. I just feel good about it. I know there’s a lot of interest. I know the county commissioners are aware of this project, the MPO's aware of this project. We’ve done presentations at USF. So I think that all that activity helps to ensure that funds will come. If we got no more additional money, but we got the grant, I mean we could approach this project and start scaling it down at least getting some things done. I hope we don’t have to do it that way.”

About a dozen citizens came to the public meeting last night at the University Area Community Center. Residents were encouraged to attend future meetings and participate in stakeholder proceedings. Cindy Sharpe has a fifth grade daughter at Muller Elementary. She said the proposed Master Plan has a lot of things the community needs.

“No, I wouldn’t even let her attempt to walk to school on Fletcher Avenue because it’s not pedestrian friendly. I feel for the people that have to try to cross the street now. The signalized crosswalks are so far apart, it really makes it difficult for people to navigate the roadway.”

Officials aren’t presenting immediate funding concerns to residents at this time; rather they are focusing on implementing the final details in the planning process. Hillsborough planning commission’s Pedro Parra said planners are now asking stakeholders to help fill in any holes that might still be in the plan.

“The intent of a community plan is to identify the community vision. In this case again, this community already has an adopted community plan, it’s been in place for ten years and the board of county commissioners has directed the planning commission to come out and engage the community. Again, to talk about what were the successes of the adopted plan in terms of its progress? How many of its have actually been implemented and to look at what still needs to be implemented from the already adopted plan.”

Two residents who didn’t wish to go on record said they doubt these improvements will be implemented anytime in their lifetime. Planning officials sent residents home with surveys to help evaluate what needs are still not being addressed by the current community plan. That survey is also available on their website.


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