Sunday, October 5, 2014

Slow down for complete streets

The Fletcher Avenue complete streets project is progressing, having started in 2013, and due to finish late in 2014.
Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and 50th Street was identified as an area of high pedestrian use and high pedestrian crash rates, with more than 1,400 pedestrians crossing Fletcher Avenue each day. Construction on the $5 million Complete Streets project to re-engineer the road for pedestrian and bicyclist safety started in late 2013, with the help of $3 million in Federal Highway Administration safety funds through the FDOT.
Rendering of Fletcher Complete Street crossing
What they want you to think about the Fletcher Ave Complete Streets project
Granted, it is near USF bordering a heavy student population that crosses Fletcher Ave to attend USF, as well as many residents dependent on transit and walking. Fletcher is a heavily traveled road, serving as a major east - west artery in northern Tampa. Safe crossings are important to the safety of pedestrians.

The project includes six new mid-block crossings between Livingston and Nebraska, which will include new pedestrian-activated rapid flashing beacons designed to alert drivers to a crossing pedestrian but not function as a full traffic signal.  These installations will be completed later in October, and enforced by Hillsborough County Sheriff Office.

Other safety improvements include raised concrete pedestrian refuge islands, raised concrete traffic separators, repaired and additional sidewalks, upgraded handicap access ramps at crossings and intersections, and a reduction in the speed limit to 35 miles per hour. An additional 1.5 miles of marked bicycle lanes also creates a 3 mile continuous segment along Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and 50th Street.

I decided to check things our for myself, and took a little tour of Fletcher Avenue the afternoon of October 4.  I saw the six new mid-block crossings, several jaywalkers who could not be bothered to use the new or existing crosswalks, the new landscaped medians, a bicyclist riding the wrong way, lots of pedestrians, many more people on the road driving cars, cars at stop lights stopped in teh middle of the mid-block crosswalks, several folks waiting for the HART bus, new sidewalks on the south side of Fletcher bordering USF, anti-abortion protesters outside the Women's Health Center, lots of trash around a Metro Rapid bus stop, and a new Fletcher Avenue obelisk.

I also saw several fire and rescue vehicles responding to a nearby alarm.  It left me to wonder if all the "traffic calming" additions along Fletcher Avenue will impact their response time.

It was definitely a mixed street.

Take a look for your self with this quick video montage.

(It's not your eyes, there is some soft focus)

Fletcher Ave between Bruce B Downs and 56th (the north side of USF) is already over capacity, and averages 44,766 Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) count, with daily capacity of 31,540.  It is way over capacity, and "F" rated level of service, one of many in Hillsborough County.  In other words, the traffic is already bad on that stretch of road, and it is rated as a failing road.

What the Metro Rapid bus stop really looks like
It's about to get worse.  Adding six mid-block crossings will impede traffic flow, as will of course reducing the speed limit 22% from 45 mph to 35 mph.

The 1400 pedestrians are about 3% of the street traffic in that area of Fletcher, yet the 44,000+ automobile drivers and riders will pay the cost in time and frustration with more backups along the route.

Expect that the drivers will find alternate routes, including winding along N 46th, N 42nd St, N 22nd St, N 15th St, and winding through Florida Hospital to E 138th Ave, spilling more traffic into roads clearly not designed to handle the load.

We've spent $5 million on the Fletcher complete streets project, which is nearly as much as the entire Hillsborough County 2015 road budget of $6.5 million. Yet Fletcher is an incomplete street, as this work does nothing to alleviate traffic congestion.  What are the plans to actually improve traffic flow?

Can our wise leaders in Hillsborough County not find a way to promote pedestrian safety AND improve traffic flow?


  1. Where's AE Com when you really need them? Where's the study that tells us specifically what causes our traffic safety problems? Call me crazy, but I think it is the failure to increase capacity on county owned roads. Those are the roads that go right by our neighborhoods - where all the walking and bike traffic happens. The county lets small groups of citizens dictate how the rest of us live by allowing them to write Community Plans that prohibit widening these over loaded county roads. Surveys indicate these rules are not representative of the people's wishes, but the County Commission approves these plans anyhow and makes them law. I think traffic flow on county owned roads correlates directly to poor safety stats for pedestrians and bike riders. Too many cars on roads shared by all. Anyone reading this who commutes on these choked roads (like Gunn Highway or Van Dyke) knows that congestion forces anxious morning commuters to cut through neighborhoods at excessive speeds to try to bypass the jams. This results in crashes and injuries and deaths. When will the county commissioners take the power they have been given at the ballot box and reverse this trend by increasing the capacity of these roads?

  2. Sharon, so you and Mark think that the "Complete Streets" project along Fletcher Ave is a complete waste huh? That's the conclusion I made after reading this post. Do you both think that continually widening roads is the ultimate answer to easing congestion along Fletcher? Think again! Because by doing that along the segment between USF and I-275, you're running the risk of wiping out businesses with additional travel lanes. Want to double deck Fletcher? Good luck with combating the NIMBY crowd! By the way Sharon, as with many of your posts, I see the complaining, but no meaningful solution from either of you. What do you have to say?

    1. HI Walter,

      Thanks for reading and sharing!

      Spending $5M on a couple of miles of Fletcher to add some cross walks that many won't use and more expensive landscaping to maintain... not to mention a new obelisk. How could we have survived this long without an obelisk? We have hundreds of miles of LOS D and F roads in Hillsborough, yet only $6.5M in the County budget. That's a bad joke on all of us. It's clear that "traffic calming" measures for so called complete streets projects prioritize pedestrians over traffic. Slow down the traffic, increase congestion. You can't have that both ways, Walter. We never said anything about widening Fletcher (although there is more room for some widening from BBD to I-75 if if needed).. You're making up and fighting your own ghosts. As an example, they could have easily used traffic signal optimization along with some pedestrian safety improvements and improved traffic flow and pedestrian safety (which often depends on pedestrian obeying crosswalks and right of way too!). Just a quick example... and as I'm sure you know, that is in our framework, which emphasizes quick, cost effective wins to improve mobility for all, not just the 2% who take transit. Fix the roads, and we all benefit, including HARTRiders!