Demand grows to make Tampa roads safer for pedestrians

Tampa, FL -- Local political leaders in Tampa are calling for major safety improvements along Hillsborough Avenue. More specifically: the area where a teenager lost her life last month and another teen was struck and critically injured earlier this week.

Faced with a recent rash of pedestrian accidents and fatalities, community leaders --including Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick -- will gather Monday to demand changes along Hillsborough Avenue.

WTSP 10 News has also learned the Florida Department of Transportation will host a meeting at its Tampa offices the following day to address the increasingly dangerous situation.

"And it's not just Hillsborough Avenue. Unfortunately, we have a pedestrian issue in the Tampa Bay area," says FDOT Spokesperson Kris Carson.

On Wednesday, a teenager crossing against a red light ran into a car and was critically injured along Hillsborough Avenue. The accident occurred just a few blocks from where another teen was struck and killed less than a month ago.

Last weekend, a woman was struck at Florida Avenue and Busch Boulevard as she pushed her toddler across the road. The child was tossed from the stroller. And that accident took place not far from where an 8-year-old girl lost her life trying to run across Busch Boulevard last year.

The intersection issue, say FDOT officials, is complicated.

Over time, populations have grown. Roadways have been widened. Existing crosswalks which originally served residents adequately are now often too far apart for people who live in surrounding neighborhoods to use conveniently.

The process of identifying, studying and addressing problem spots can take a year or more.

"They need a light there, and if possible, an overhead bridge," said Kedesha Jackson, who lives in the same neighborhood.

Others agree that's a good idea, because it would also allow traffic to continue flowing.

But FDOT says footbridges -- like the one constructed in Clearwater after a girl lost her life in 2004 trying to cross McMullen Booth Road -- can get expensive. The cost? A million dollars, plus the cost of property on both sides of the road.

"Expense doesn't cover life. Nothing covers life," said Jackson.

"Perhaps it could be that a crosswalk could be warranted," said Carson, "There's lots of different options we're looking at. We're in the study phase right now."

Despite warnings, even deadly accidents, pedestrians continue to take dangerous risks.

FDOT's brainstorming session is set for next Tuesday.


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