TAMPA — As crowds of bar-hoppers on S Howard Avenue grow ever bigger, their appetite for parking is wearing out the patience of surrounding homeowners.
So now Tampa officials are looking at providing at least some relief to SoHo neighborhoods by adding on-street parking along Platt Street.
A recent review suggests on-street parking and also a bike lane with a buffer from other traffic could be put on part of Platt without creating "unacceptable congestion," said Jean Duncan, the city's newly appointed director of transportation and stormwater services.
Potentially, the south side of Platt could get 54 new metered parking spaces from S Armenia Avenue to S Dakota Avenue, just west of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway overpass. But adding parking beyond Dakota toward Bayshore Boulevard could potentially create a problem with congestion, Duncan said.
As envisioned, adding the parking and bike lane would reduce the number of lanes for cars on Platt from three to two. The bike lane would be separated from the remaining two lanes of traffic by the 8-foot-wide strip of parallel parking spaces, plus a 3-foot striped buffer painted between the parking and the bike lane. It would be the first buffered bike lane in the city.
"This really should be a bike lane that people can use," said South Tampa City Council representative Harry Cohen, who asked for an analysis of adding parking to Platt. "They're really a full lane away from the traffic."
With the changes, city officials said they could consider lowering Platt's speed limit from 40 mph to 35, adding another safety feature to what is becoming a corridor with more pedestrians.
As a result, the city will delay for three months a resurfacing project scheduled to start this month on Platt to do more research. At its most recent regular meeting this month, the City Council asked for a follow-up report on Oct. 16.
"This sounds very promising," council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said.
It won't be the last idea the city explores, said Cohen, who has been studying ways to help ease the parking, noise and other neighborhood nuisances created by SoHo's bar scene.
"This is not the end-all, be-all solution to every problem that has been identified in the SoHo corridor, but it is something we can do now to alleviate a little bit of the congestion that has caused some of the complaints," he said. "Even this type of incremental step will help us deal with some of the parking overflow that has been absorbed by the surrounding neighborhoods and that we hear so much about."
As the city moves forward, officials plan to give the public a chance to weigh in on the proposal. Cohen said he had not heard any criticism of the idea, "but there's always tomorrow, so we'll see what people have to say."
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.