About 50 people gathered at the Tuesday night to listen and ask questions about the proposed pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements planned for Fletcher Avenue from Nebraska Avenue to 50th Street.
Angela Schiarappa, a recent USF graduate and now a member of Americorp with Rebuilding Tampa Bay, said she resided in the area while a student and knows first hand the challenges of living there.
“I was a resident of the University area and thought it was important to be here and find out what was being proposed,” she said.
The length of the proposed project is approximately 3 miles. Commercial and multi-family residential properties line Fletcher along this area. Home to transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists, it is rated the worst bike/pedestrian corridor in the county. The design phase of the project, expected to be finished by early 2012, is fully funded with $2.5 million; the remaining $1.5 million for construction is still being obtained.
Staff from the Planning Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hillsborough County’s Development Services Section and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) answered questions from individuals, and small groups gathered around maps of the proposed improvements.
Planning Commission Principal Planner Pedro Parra started the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation explaining the intent of the meeting, process for the plan, personnel involved, and the overall vision. Guests were then invited to walk around the room and examine maps of the proposed changes and ask questions directly to the appropriate staff.
Barbara Toll attended the open house and had some very specific concerns. Toll is a resident of , a community of seniors and people with disabilities, located on North 19th Street.
Toll explained to Parra and HART representative Les Weakland that she had recently lost the use of her car and was now using the bus system and her electric wheelchair to get around.
“I’m concerned about the sidewalks being made accessible, and the streetlights timed so a person can make it across the street before the light changes,” said Toll. “I saw my life flash before me when I was trying to cross the street at Livingston and Fletcher to get to Target.”
Michael Flick, senior engineer in Traffic Engineering with Hillsborough County, made the point that the average daily traffic along the stretch of Fletcher addressed in the plan is 40,000 vehicles. Based on the safety report, he explained that you can see at all times of the day pedestrians and bicycles crossing the streets through traffic.
“Between 2006 and 2010, we had 63 pedestrian accidents, three were fatalities and 23 resulted in permanent incapacitation for the victims,” said Flick.
A link to the University Area Community Plan survey was distributed at the meeting and is now available online to anyone interested in offering input on the proposed changes.
Information on the community plan distributed at the meeting is also available online.