Hillsborough Avenue critics have their say
Critics have described East Hillsborough Avenue as an urban wasteland. The busy east-west corridor is a six-lane asphalt roadway divided at intervals by concrete medians – barren of landscaping.
It often is heavily congested at rush hours, and can be dangerous to navigate for pedestrians and bicyclists.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and engineering firm Tindale-Oliver hosted the second of two meetings to discuss traffic and safety improvements to East Hillsborough, from Interstate 275 to 50th Street.
By July, Tindale-Oliver is expected to complete the East Hillsborough Avenue Corridor Study. It will include long-term recommendations, but also timely solutions that don’t involve major redesigns.
Suggestions emerging from the meetings have included signage, state-of-the art traffic signals, crosswalks, banning right turns when a traffic signal is red, more streetlights and designating parallel roads, such as Giddens Avenue, as bicycle boulevards.
“Some of this stuff you can go out and do it with paint,” said Demian Miller of Tindale-Oliver. “Some of it, like traffic signals, is more involved.”
Hillsborough is a state road, but intersecting streets are maintained by the city of Tampa.
Funding – or a lack of it – is a hurdle for some of the recommended projects.
“Just because we think it’s a great idea doesn’t mean they can afford to do it,” Miller said.
While reducing traffic jams was an issue for many of the people who attended the meetings, pedestrian safety also was a priority.
A stretch of Hillsborough from 22nd Street to railroad tracks near a U.S. Post Office is especially dangerous, said College Hill resident Cynthia Few.
There are apartments, a bank and restaurants on the northern side of Hillsborough. A farmer’s market and strip mall are on the southern side. “People don’t have a crosswalk. How are they going to get across?” Few said.
In 2011 a Middleton High School student was struck by a pickup and killed as she crossed near the railroad tracks while walking to school before dawn.
Few and others also said they would like to see left-turn lanes at 30th and 34th streets to ease traffic flow and take some vehicles out of the travel lanes. “There is no turn lane so you can determine what a person is going to do,” she said.
Adding crosswalks or better delineating the existing ones was one suggestion for inexpensively improving pedestrian safety.
“People are going to cross a street where it’s more convenient for them,” said Chris Keller, a senior transportation planner for Tindale-Oliver.
Crosswalks midway between major intersections would shorten the distance from about a half-mile to a quarter-mile. “That’s considered a little more of a reasonable walking distance,” said Keller.
New traffic signal technology also is available. One system enables pedestrians to push a button, activating a strobe light to alert motorists to yield.
Miller said Pinellas County is beginning to use these devises on some four-lane roads with good results. In coming months Hillsborough County plans to install five such signals on Fletcher Avenue, from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to Nebraska Avenue.
Another system, primarily used in Western states, relies on multiple signs, flashing yellow lights and red lights to alert motorists. Again, the system is activated by a push button. “This is a rarity in Florida,” Miller said.