TAMPA — Three down. One to go.
With the Republican National Convention's last day ticking down, officials are predicting the worst of the traffic headaches are over, leaving just one morning and afternoon rush hour for commuters to endure.
"I thought things were a little better today," Tampa's transportation director, Jean Duncan, said of downtown driving conditions Wednesday. "We didn't have the downtown road closures from protesters. It was probably somewhat better than Tuesday, but both days were very smooth."
Smooth but slow. And there's still plenty of slowdowns ahead.
Drivers can still expect another day of bumper-to-bumper conditions on Kennedy Boulevard and Twiggs and Jackson streets. Parking at the Fort Brooke garage will likely stay a problem this morning, with a bottleneck stretching onto Tampa Street.
And some South Tampa streets should continue to induce anxiety. Parts of W Kennedy Boulevard, MacDill Avenue and Platt, Cleveland and Willow streets have looked more like parking lots than roads the past few days. Part of that is due to the closing of the Platt Street Bridge and northbound Bayshore Boulevard at Swann Avenue.
"Sometimes you have police directing traffic at one intersection and that can lead to backups at other intersections," Duncan said.
With most police resources committed to downtown, that means South Tampa has another day of headaches ahead. Tuesday evening saw delays on Howard Avenue as about a dozen empty charter buses labored to make the turn from Cleveland Street. Apparently, the drivers were looking to park somewhere to wait out Tuesday's RNC session.
Whether because of Tropical Storm Isaac or a decision by downtown's office crowd to adjust their schedules or stay away this week, traffic hasn't been as bad as officials expected. Traffic on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway's reversible express lanes has been sparse.
"It could have been a lot worse," Duncan said. "We figured with the displacement of traffic from the road closures, we would see a lot more congestion. But we haven't had significant issues with the a.m. or p.m., and we're pleased with that."
Now if only the protesters stay off the roads today.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2454.