Many students, tourists, and Tampa residents regularly visit the Historic Ybor City District in Tampa for school, work, and play. Hillsborough Community College (HCC) students and staff, along with local residents, expressed safety concerns for pedestrians walking near the college and Centro Ybor. In response to these concerns, the City of Tampa assembled a Road Safety Audit team to address pedestrian safety and infrastructure along Palm Avenue, between Nuccio Parkway and North 20th Street. Team members included the Tampa Police Department, City of Tampa Transportation, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation, Ybor City Development Corporation, Tampa City Council, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Safety Ambassadors, a team of engineering consultants, and HCC leadership and staff. Dr. Shawn Robinson, HCC Ybor Campus President, says the accomplishments of the RSA team demonstrate how successful community partnerships make change possible. The collaboration in Ybor demonstrates what we are capable of when interested parties build comprehensive solutions that match available resources, Robinson explained.
The Road Safety Audit team developed recommendations to enhance overall visibility and ensure that pedestrians and motorists are able to see one another easily when traversing the Palm Avenue corridor. Pedestrian crashes are more likely to happen after dark when visibility is reduced so the team worked with TECO to enhance nighttime illumination in the area. Based on the recommendations of the Road Safety Audit, the City prepared construction plans and implemented several improvements. Four crosswalks and pedestrian ramps were enhanced and a crosswalk was relocated from Palm Avenue, midblock between 15th Street and Avenida Republica de Cuba (ARDC) to the intersection of Palm and ARDC where pedestrian and motorist lines of sight are clear. Pedestrian activated Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB’s) were installed at intersections to increase visibility further, and sidewalks and refuge islands were added as well. Four-foot high architectural fencing was installed in the median to help channel pedestrians to the new crosswalk locations at Palm Ave. and ARDC.
William Porth, the city’s traffic studies and safety coordinator, requested the required traffic studies and pedestrian data collection, investigated the existing crash history and range of concerns expressed by students and residents, and assumed the role of project advocate and facilitator. “We are happy to have been a part of this collaboration between both private and public stakeholders that supported the project and we appreciate the opportunity to enhance pedestrian safety,” Porth said. In addition to the recent improvements to Ybor City’s pedestrian infrastructure, Porth emphasized the importance of walking defensively, remaining alert, and ensuring that you can see and be seen in traffic, in parking lots, and on city streets: “It will greatly improve your chances of safely walking your estimated lifetime average of 75,000 miles,” he said.