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.
|What they want you to think about the Fletcher Ave Complete Streets project|
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|
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?