Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez's entrance in the mayor's race this week has a theme: the city needs to pay more attention to neighborhoods.
That message pleased neighborhood activists, including those who have been active in the fight to implement a "road diet" (narrower lanes, bike lanes and a turning lane) to make Bay to Bay Boulevard, a busy east-west South Tampa artery, more pedestrian and bike friendly.
"Really like @mikefortampa's neighborhood focused platform. @CityofTampa desperately needs to work on getting the small stuff right," tweeted Taylor Ralph, a real estate developer, who has been a leader in the Bay to Bay battle after Suarez's Tuesday announcement.
When asked about his stance on Bay to Bay on Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Times, Suarez agreed with Buckhorn's decision, saying the Complete Streets project was doomed without improvements to Dale Mabry Highway, which cuts across Bay to Bay.
"Here's the problem with the Bay to Bay project. The problem is that Dale Mabry Highway is too big of a road and FDOT doesn't engineer it to slow down traffic and to make it a more walkable street on that end. It's very difficult to change Bay to Bay when the major cross street that you have is such—let's face it, they call it a highway for a reason–it's a highway," said Suarez.
Suarez said a similar road diet on Palm Avenue has frustrated some residents, but has been an overall success. But that completed project between Nebraska Avenue and Tampa Street doesn't have the traffic monster that is Dale Mabry.
"In concept, I agree with doing some of this, but in practice because we don't get the kind of partnership from FDOT on these roads, it's really impossible for us to do it so that people are able to move east and west and be able to feel safe while they're walking. I know that people are talking about Bay to Bay and what a problem it is. Bay to Bay is not the issue. Dale Mabry is the issue, in my mind," Suarez said.