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Bay area's roads still are among meanest in U.S.

U.S. 19 in Pasco County is the deadliest road in the country for pedestrians, according to a national study that ranks the Tampa Bay region among the most dangerous for walking.

The rankings, by the nonprofit Surface Transportation Policy Project in Washington, D.C., are based on the number of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people.

The Tampa Bay area topped the list the past four years. This year, it fell to second, behind Orlando.

"It's not a great distinction," said Andrea Broaddus, state and local campaign manager for the Surface Transportation Policy Project. "It means that you could be investing a lot more into protecting the safety of those daring people who are out walking and trying to get exercise into their daily routine."

The study, titled "Mean Streets 2002," placed five Florida cities among the top 10. Orlando's pedestrian fatalities increased from 52 in 2000 to 58 in 2001, while the Tampa Bay region saw 16 fewer such fatalities during that time.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay area spent far less on pedestrian safety than the national average, the study said. The report cites Florida's urban sprawl, its propensity for four- to eight-lane streets, its speeding traffic and a lack of crosswalks and sidewalks.

"The whole development of our area is centered around the automobile," said Chris Hagelin, a research associate with the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. "There's this whole kind of trend toward urban sprawl. It creates an environment that is hostile to bikers and pedestrians."

Twenty-two people were killed on U.S. 19 between 2000 and 2001 in Pasco County. Ten people died on Pinellas County's portion of the road.

The "Mean Streets 2002" report said the six- to eight-lane road has the classic ingredients for a dangerous road: a speed limit of 45 mph in many places, few sidewalks and crosswalks, and strip malls and large stores that attract motorists.

Officials with the Surface Transportation Policy Project, which works to improve transportation in the country, said it is no coincidence the areas that spend the least on pedestrian safety have the most accidents.

The Tampa region spent 41 cents per person on bike and pedestrian projects compared with a national average of 87 cents per person, the study said.

Michelle Ernst, a senior analyst with the Surface Transportation Policy Project, said some $700 million in pedestrian safety funds nationwide was not used the past 10 years.

Marian Scorza, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation in Tampa, could not say how much more or less the agency is spending to make roads safer for pedestrians.

But she said that whenever the DOT builds a new road, it tries to add shoulders and bike lanes and sidewalks. She pointed out that the DOT has built several pedestrian overpasses on U.S. 19 and has closed several of the median openings to make the road safer.

_ Times staff writer Matthew Waite contributed to this report.

Florida pedestrians fare poorly

Here are the 10 most dangerous large U.S. metropolitan areas for walking as ranked in the 2002 Mean Streets study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

1. Orlando

2. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater

3. West Palm Beach-

Boca Raton

4. Memphis

5. Jacksonville

6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale

7. Houston-Galveston-

Brazoria, Texas

8. Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz.

9. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

10. Nashville, Tenn.

Source: Surface Transportation Policy Project