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Vision Zero strategy for safer Hillsborough roads: repaint, narrow lanes, educate

Josephine Winiarz, left, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, center, help paint a bike lane on the Bullard Parkway Bridge in Temple Terrace in April. Brighter lanes to make motorists more aware are among the solutions developed to cut pedestrian fatalities [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Aug. 22, 2017

TAMPA — What would it take to eliminate all traffic deaths in the county that has the most of them?

Local planners think a combination of repainting roads, narrowing lanes, expanding data-driven policing and installing new lighting will help ensure that Hillsborough loses the dubious distinction it holds among the nation's large counties.

They presented an action plan Tuesday at the Tampa Theatre during the fourth local workshop of the Vision Zero Coalition — a national campaign to eliminate deaths and serious injuries caused by traffic.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough planners take to streets to study pedestrian safety

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization spearheaded the plan and established the coalition, which includes officials working in local city and county transportation, public safety, health and education, as well as business partnerships and hospitals.

"Hillsborough County is one of the worst counties in the state, which is one of the worst states in the United States," said Ken Sides, a transportation engineer at Sam Schwartz Engineering.

Actually, the worst, according to research for the local coalition: Hillsborough County records more traffic deaths per resident than any other large county in the country.

Vehicles killed 207 people in Hillsborough County in 2016 — the highest yearly number in the last decade, according to county data.

"We're drawing a line in the sand now," said Maj. Alan Hill of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. "We are making traffic safety a priority."

The new action plan outlines four campaigns to make the county's streets safe:

• "Paint Saves Lives," an effort to repaint crosswalks, paint new bright bicycle lanes, and narrow vehicle lanes in high-crash areas.

• "Consistent and Fair," a policing strategy that deploys more officers to dangerous roads and intersections based on crash data.

• "One Message, Many Voices," a push to build public awareness of the coalition and traffic safety in general.

• "The Future Will Not Be Like the Past," a plan to rethink planning design standards and consider more roundabouts and better lighting in the future.

Most of the actions in the plan are slated to start by the end of the year and wind up in 2019. The group is also planning an event Oct. 6, second anniversary of the death of 17-year-old Alexis Miranda, a Chamberlain High School student who was hit by a car and killed near school.

One of the areas the coalition is highlighting is Brandon Boulevard between Falkenburg Road and Dover Road. This stretch of roadway recorded the highest number of severe crashes per mile from 2012-2016, the group found.

In that time, 180 severe crashes killed 11 people and caused 169 incapacitating injuries, according to a report by the group. Among the reasons: Gaps in the sidewalks, inadequate crosswalks and poor lighting.

Contact Langston Taylor at ltaylor@tampabay.com. Follow @langstonitaylor.

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