Traffic light coming to Tampa intersection where teen was killed

Tampa, FL -- It's taken nearly two dozen accidents and at least two fatalities, but the Florida Department of Transportation has finally agreed to make improvements at a dangerous intersection along Hillsborough Avenue at 25th Street.

On Monday, the parents of two teenagers most recently struck along the road made a tearful plea. What can be done, they asked, to improve pedestrian safety here?

"Nobody else should have to feel this pain," said William Hogan, whose 18-year-old son was still in a coma after he was struck by a car while jaywalking at Hillsborough near 40th Street.

"How many kids is it going to take before something's done?" asked the teen's mother, Lori.

The answer, coming just one day later from the Florida Department of Transportation, is that they will install a full traffic light signal and crosswalk at the intersection of 25th and Hillsborough Avenue.

The announcement was made at a major meeting of local transportation and political officials earlier this morning at FDOT's offices in Tampa.

"We had cameras out there," said FDOT Spokesperson Kris Carson, "We counted. We looked at crash data. And we're happy to report that a signal is justified."

Reaction from residents was somewhere between "thank goodness" and "it's about time."

"That is so great," said Cynthia Taylor, who lives that Meridian Pointe Apartments at the same intersection.

"I've got grandchildren that come out here too," said Taylor. "I'm so happy," she said, "but it's sad," for the families of people who've been killed.

FDOT says a previous traffic study had not warranted a traffic light, even though their own records show 22 pedestrians and bicyclists have been struck in the area between 22nd and 38th Streets in the past four years.

That's why residents and local political leaders did not like is the projected time-frame FDOT said it would need to make the improvements: 12 to 16 months.

The State Agency says it needs the time to move utility lines, acquire property on both sides of the road, and construct the signal itself.

But Mike Dove, President of the local Neighborhood Association, worries what may happen in that time given the recent rash of accidents.

"When another child dies, what are we going to say? Are we going to say 'Only eight more months and we'll be safe?' No, we can do things now," said Dove.

In the long-term, Tampa city leaders say FDOT needs to think more about pedestrians proactively and not retroactively. A big step toward that, they say, would be to toughen the state's antiquated traffic guidelines.

They think that would make it less difficult to deny permitting for big residential projects until pedestrian safety can be fully addressed.

In the short term, FDOT says it will keep pushing education. An effort to encourage people to use one of the existing crosswalks at 22nd Street or 30th. They have also talked about handing out reflective wrist-bands and back packs.

The agency is also looking into using grant money to possibly post Tampa Police officers out in front of the apartment complex during peak hours to encourage pedestrians to walk to the nearest crosswalk rather than running across the road.


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