Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Transportation

Republican National Convention will take toll on downtown Tampa commuters

TAMPA — The Republican National Convention will cost downtown commuters some time — and test their creativity.

The Secret Service has released its security plan for the Aug. 27-30 convention, and with it a list of detours and road closures, including a segment of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway between Willow Avenue and 50th Street.

"It's the RNC," said Sue Chrzan, a Tampa Hills­borough County Expressway Authority spokeswoman. "It's the biggest event ever. And there's definitely bound to be some discomfort with that. But that's the way it is."

Tampa has posted detour plans at tampagov.net, but those cater mostly to cruise passengers and people going to Tampa General Hospital on Davis Islands.

There's no one-route-fits-all plan for locals or out-of-towners, said Jean Duncan, the city's transportation manager. The best advice: budget more time.

"When we have these closures, the best advice is for people to try to get as much information ahead of time and plan their route in advance," Duncan said. "Just allow for extra time. We don't know how much more exactly is needed."

It is a week for people to get creative, officials said.

Those with flexible work hours should consider getting in and leaving work early. Not only will this help them dodge the most congested time periods, but it will also alleviate traffic for those who have no choice but to drive during rush hour.

That's the same advice coming from the Florida Department of Transportation, which doesn't plan to set aside lanes on the interstates to accommodate the 400 charter buses that will carry delegates between their hotels and the Tampa Bay Times Forum convention site.

"We are not going to have any kind of specialized lanes or certain sections of the interstate blocked off for buses or anything like that," DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said. "It's definitely going to be busier, so we're advising people to pad their times if they do have to drive the interstate."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn expects drivers to figure out the routes best for them.

"Traffic is like water: It will always find its way," he said. "It will take people two or three days like it did with the Platt Street bridge closure. They will figure out how to get to their destination as quickly as possible."

Carpooling with a spouse or neighbor helps eliminate cars, Duncan said. And the Ybor City trolley will be running its normal hours from noon until 10 p.m. People also should consider parking farther away from the convention zone and walking the rest of the way into the city.

"If you're coming to downtown with a car at some point, plan on having some walking shoes with you," she said.

The city is working with cab companies to have more taxis available and to set up two additional cab stands, one on N Ashley Drive and E Whiting Street, and another on N 12th Street at Channelside Drive.

Officials will be monitoring the cameras at intersections to adjust signal timings accordingly, Duncan said. For example, if the live video shows one intersection facing an influx of traffic, the transportation department might add a little more green time on the traffic signal to alleviate congestion. The city will be adding several additional cameras, which don't record footage, to help with the event.

A combination of variable message boards — the big signs on wheels that show traffic tips in orange lights on the side of the road — and messages on interstate overhead signs will provide commuters with up-to-date information on delays, lane closures and detours, Duncan said. The city also will have a large police presence directing traffic, Duncan said.

"We're hoping everyone will heed the information that's out there now," Duncan said. "We've got a full month to plan routes and schedules and get backup plans."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3111.

Comments
New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

TAMPA — More than a dozen bus routes in Hillsborough County will have new times, paths and stops starting Sunday.The changes come almost four months after the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority rolled out an entirely new bus network, scrapp...
Published: 02/19/18
After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

OCALA — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurr...
Published: 02/18/18
Engineers push back against criticism of bus rapid transit plan

Engineers push back against criticism of bus rapid transit plan

ST. PETERSBURG — Proponents of a bus rapid transit system that would connect St. Petersburg, Tampa and Wesley Chapel pushed back Friday against recent criticism of the proposed plan.The lead engineer told a group of regional leaders that they wanted ...
Published: 02/12/18
Red-light camera challenge gets rough ride at state Supreme Court

Red-light camera challenge gets rough ride at state Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — Motorists hoping that the courts will pull the plug on red-light cameras may have hit a roadblock: the Florida Supreme Court.On Wednesday, the court heard arguments in a case that could decide the legality of red-light camera programs a...
Published: 02/07/18
Hillsborough leaders raise questions about bus rapid transit

Hillsborough leaders raise questions about bus rapid transit

TAMPA — Leaders in Hillsborough politics and transportation are speaking up this week about their concerns with Tampa Bay’s latest proposal to bring transit to the region. Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, emerged last month as the lead o...
Published: 02/06/18
Updated: 02/07/18
Shut down Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Tampa City Council is skeptical

Shut down Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Tampa City Council is skeptical

TAMPA — Shut down Tampa’s iconic Bayshore Boulevard on Sundays? Allow a Gasparilla every weekend, but without the drunken crowds and gaudy pirates? A group of supporters of the "Open Streets" concept pitched the idea Thursday to the Tampa City Counci...
Updated one month ago

She tried to board a flight with her ‘emotional support peacock.’ The airline said no.

Airlines are cracking down on the use of "emotional support animals" — and their case could be strengthened by a woman who tried to bring a peacock onboard a United Airlines flight.First reported by The Jet Set, a travel-focused show, a woman at Newa...
Updated one month ago
Florida among the states with the lowest number of structurally deficient bridges

Florida among the states with the lowest number of structurally deficient bridges

Florida is home to 265 "structurally deficient" bridges, according to a new report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, or ARTBA.The report examined federal data and found that there are 54,259 bridges rated "structurally def...
Updated one month ago
Bus rapid transit service must be fast, frequent, experts say

Bus rapid transit service must be fast, frequent, experts say

For years, the Tampa Bay region has been stuck in a prolonged transit fight: bus vs. rail.The form of transit is beside the point, said Art Guzzetti, vice president of the American Public Transportation Association."That’s not the problem," he said. ...
Updated one month ago
How to navigate downtown Tampa for Saturday’s Gasparilla invasion, NHL festivities

How to navigate downtown Tampa for Saturday’s Gasparilla invasion, NHL festivities

TAMPA — They may be the new kids in town when it comes to Gasparilla, but National Hockey League officials figured out the best advice for anyone coming to the all-star weekend events they have planned just around the corner from the pirate parade.Ge...
Updated one month ago