Thursday, August 16, 2018
Transportation

Bay to Bay traffic advocates earn small victory from TECO

TAMPA — Residents who live near eastern Bay-to-Bay Boulevard are cheering a small victory in their fight to make the roadway safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

For more than a year, residents have called for bike lanes and sidewalks free of utility poles.

They lost a big round in that battle several months ago when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn decided to reject a proposal to reduce the number of traffic lanes and build two bike lanes along the street between Dale Mabry Highway and Esperanza Avenue.

But after nearly a year of negotiations, residents found Tampa Electric Company (TECO) a bit more accommodating — about three weeks ago the power company began replacing utility poles along Bay-to-Bay east of Dale Mabry.

"We have been in discussions with these community groups since last fall. In evaluating the conditions in the field, we determined that 14 poles between Himes and MacDill were due to be replaced," said Cherie Jacobs, media spokesperson for TECO.

Many of these poles were in the middle of sidewalks on the north side of the roadway, effectively blocking people with strollers or in wheelchairs from using the sidewalks.

Jacobs said the poles are being relocated to the farthest edge of the sidewalk or right-of-way away from the road to allow safer passage for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Three additional poles located on the south side of the road between the Selmon Expressway and Bayshore Boulevard are scheduled to be replaced, as well.

TECO’s thousands of utility poles throughout Hillsborough County are inspected regularly as part of the company’s maintenance program, Jacobs said.

Generally, utility poles can last more than 30 years. Each pole can cost thousands of dollars to replace.

A typical city block has multiple utility poles with up to a half dozen found on some blocks along Bay-to-Bay.

Some of those poles along Bay-to-Bay Boulevard began to be replaced in early May.

"We have to applaud TECO. They were willing to meet with us, listen to what we had to say, and then they followed through with what they told us they would do. We couldn’t be more thrilled about seeing the utility poles moved off the sidewalks," says Kim DeGance, president of the Palm Ceia Neighborhood Association.

Many of the remaining poles also carry cable or telephone wires and cannot be replaced without approvals, according to DeGance,

"Now we just need them to move their lines off the old utility poles and then the sidewalks will be officially cleared of the old poles," she said. "South Tampa has so few and far between sidewalks that we need all of them to be free from obstructions and obstacles that allow a wheelchair or stroller to be on them."

Whit Remer, a resident active in the push to make Bay-to-Bay safer, pointed to El Prado Boulevard to the south where a utility pole was recently replaced in the same spot in the middle of the sidewalk.

"El Prado from McDill to Bayshore is brick and not good for bikes, strollers or wheelchairs. Utility poles continue to obstruct the sidewalk," he said.

"It’s a great irritation to people in South Tampa," says Emily Hinsdale, a founder of Sidewalk Stompers who worked with DeGance to get the utility poles moved along Bay-to-Bay.

She was among more than a hundred people who participated in an April protest walk for safer streets, calling for the city to rescind its decision and implement its "Complete Streets" program on Bay-to-Bay.

That program calls for all modes of transportation (vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists) to share the city’s roadways.

Bay-to-Bay was originally to be included in the city’s Walk-Bike project that would install dedicated bike lanes in a major reconstruction scheduled to begin this summer.

Instead, the existing four lanes between Dale Mabry and Esperanza will be retained but narrowed to create a two-foot buffer on each side of the road.

Among other changes, the city plans to add a second left turn lane at the intersection with Bayshore Boulevard to improve both traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

Hinsdale, who also works as a correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times on stories not related to this issue, said her group is now lobbying county officials in hopes the county will pressure city officials to reverse their decision on Bay-to-Bay’s reconstruction.

Contact Sheila Mullane Estrada at [email protected]

Comments
Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

Transportation activists hope to pave over past referendum defeats

TAMPA — The group behind a sales tax transportation initiative used hundreds of volunteers and spent at least $550,000 on a petition-gathering firm in a frantic six-week dash to qualify for the Nov. 6 General Election ballot.That may have been the ea...
Published: 08/11/18
Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

Troubled SunPass vendor could have to pay $1.7 million, but Florida isn’t asking for it

The vendor responsible for recent problems with the SunPass tolling system could be on the hook to pay the state at least $1.7 million based on a review of documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.But the Florida Department of Transportation hasn’t ...
Published: 08/08/18
Updated: 08/09/18
Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

Petition succeeds, Hillsborough voters set to decide on sales tax hike for transportation

TAMPA — As if there wasn’t enough riding on the mid-term elections, a plan to raise the sales tax to pay for transportation projects is now set to go before Hillsborough voters.The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections confirmed Wednesday that ...
Published: 08/08/18

Flooding closes WPA Road in Brooksville; Rackley, other roads still closed

BROOKSVILLE — Flooding on Wednesday led the Hernando County Department of Public Works to close WPA Road just south of its intersection with Mondon Hill Road.More than a foot of water is covering part of the road, east of downtown Brooksville, accord...
Published: 08/08/18
Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

Ferry project waves goodbye to $4.7 million federal grant

TAMPA — If the long-awaited commuter ferry service between south Hillsborough County and MacDill Air Force Base ever happens, it will likely be without federal money. Leaders of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority acknowledged Mon...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

High-speed rail firm scouting land for station and development around proposed Rays ballpark site

TAMPA — Brightline, the firm behind the passenger rail system between Miami and West Palm Beach, doesn’t yet know if it will win a state bid to build a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando.But the company is already scouting sites for a ter...
Published: 08/04/18
Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

Southbound I-275 ramp to northbound 75 in Manatee County to close for 10 months

People who travel from Pinellas County to southern Hillsborough using the interstates may want to build in some extra time.The Florida Department of Transportation has shut down the ramp that shuttles motorists from southbound Interstate 275 in Manat...
Updated one month ago
Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Waterborne transportation a fact of life in other cities; why not Tampa Bay?

Mark Hubbard, the owner of Hubbard’s Marina on John’s Pass, has watched two decades of uncertainty over the future of waterborne transportation play out in Tampa Bay. Just when it seems that Tampa and St. Petersburg have figured out how ...
Updated one month ago
One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

One Florida agency rejected the troubled SunPass vendor three years ago. Here’s why.

When Florida wanted to consolidate its tolling systems into what drivers now know as SunPass, regional expressway agencies in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were ready to work together. But when Xerox spinoff Conduent State & Local Solutions was chosen as...
Updated one month ago
Uber says ride app funnels $1.1 billion a year into Florida’s economy

Uber says ride app funnels $1.1 billion a year into Florida’s economy

There’s no question that Uber has changed the way Floridians travel and spend money, but until now it’s been hard to quantify just how much. A new study paid for by the popular ride share app says it has contributed about $1.1 billion an...
Updated one month ago