Tampa streets to get a pedestrian-friendly makeover
TAMPA - Ashley Drive will get on-street parking and a more pedestrian-friendly design. The work is part of a $2.9 million contract with Ajax Paving Industries of Florida LLC, which has been hired to make a variety of pedestrian-oriented changes to Tampa's streets. The to-do list includes adding bike lanes to:
Doyle Carlton Drive north of the Straz Center;
Palm Avenue in Ybor City;
Laurel Street between North Boulevard and Tampa Street.
The two-year contract is part of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's overall strategy to make downtown more accessible and safer for pedestrians, said Ali Glisson, the mayor's spokeswoman.
“We look at this as an opportunity to start to slow traffic down,” Buckhorn said Friday. “There will be more of this to come.”
Buckhorn returned Thursday from an economic-development trip to Germany and Switzerland. He said he was amazed at the number of bicyclists and how easily they fit into traffic. “It was pervasive,” Buckhorn said. “There were bikes everywhere. They were comfortable with the flow of traffic.” The Tampa region routinely ranks among the worst in the nation for traffic fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists. Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said the city and region will have a hard time attracting economic development if they remain atop that list. The redesign of Ashley reflects the changing nature of downtown, from a place people left after work to one where people live full time, she said. The Ajax contract calls for adding parking spaces to Ashley between Tyler Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard — a project outlined in Buckhorn's InVision Tampa study from last year. Nearly 30,000 vehicles travel that stretch of Ashley every day, according to city traffic counts. The InVision final report shows renderings of Ashley with parking spaces and a bike lane along its east side. The report describes Ashley as “a freeway ramp deep into the downtown core.” Buckhorn said the city will add parking spaces by squeezing the existing lanes, not removing lanes. The changes will slow traffic and make streets accessible to pedestrians, said Pei-Sung Lin, a traffic safety expert at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. “Slower vehicle speeds can provide pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers more time to react,” Lin said. “When a crash does occur, the chance of causing serious injuries and fatalities for pedestrian and bicyclists can be reduced.”