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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Hillsborough Ave. crosswalk, signal coming

TAMPA — A signaled crosswalk is just one potential solution to pedestrian safety problems plaguing Hillsborough Avenue, a topic that brought together representatives from local agencies Tuesday morning.

State and city officials said a plan was in place to put in the crosswalk and signal in the area where two Middleton High School students were struck and killed over the past three years.

The announcement came during a meeting to explore traffic problems and solutions on a dangerous stretch of the busy six-lane road hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation with officials from the city, and the Hillsborough County school district and sheriff’s office.

“There is no one magic silver bullet that’s going to solve this,” said Paul Steinman, secretary of the transportation department’s District 7, at the start of the meeting.

The discussion follows two pedestrian-involved crashes on Hillsborough Avenue in the past month.

Last week, 18-year-old William Hogan was badly injured when he was struck while trying to cross Hillsborough Avenue at 40th Street. Police said he was crossing against a red light.

On the morning of March 18, two sisters, ages 14 and 15, were struck crossing Hillsborough — without using the crosswalk — on their way to Middleton. The 15-year-old, Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, died a few days later from her injuries. Another Middleton, 15-year-old Shenika Davis, was struck and killed in the same area in October 2011.

“This is not just a Middleton High School issue,” said Tanya Arja, spokeswoman for the school district. “Pedestrian safety is an issue we need to address with all our students.”

Assistant district traffic operations engineer Peter Hsu said his staff has visited Middleton students three times as part of the Department of Transportation’s teen traffic safety education program.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 21 pedestrian or bike crashes along Hillsborough, Hsu said. Two of them were fatal. About 29 percent of those crashes — including the two fatalities — happened at night, Hsu said. Investigators concluded most of them were the result of biker or pedestrian error.

The department has spent millions of dollars on pedestrian safety education programs and road improvements along Hillsborough in recent years, Hsu said. Workers have added raised medians, crosswalks and “yield to pedestrians” signs.

State transportation officials are working with Tampa Electric Co. to improve lighting along the road and with city officials to add the signaled crosswalk in front of Meridien Point Apartments, which will take 16 months to complete.

City transportation Director Jean Duncan said there have been a lot of heavy hearts about the recent crashes on Hillsborough, but officials have been working to make improvements for years and will continue to do so.

“There have been some lives saved because of all that work that’s been going on,” Duncan said.

Others still are calling for more to be done.

“Education of the drivers and slowing them down is equally important,” said City Councilwoman Yolie Capin.

State Rep. Betty Reed, of Tampa, called also for an elevated crosswalk stretching across the roadway. She said she appreciates the steps already taken and the money already spent, but doesn’t believe they are enough.

“Obviously,” Reed said, “that’s not working.”

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Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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