TAMPA, Fla — People living in South Tampa are asking for more safety measures at intersections. The intersection sparking the safety conversation is Bay to Bay Boulevard and Lois Avenue.
On Dec. 10, 2021, two teenagers from Plant High School died in a crash at the intersection. Ben Francis, 16, was driving a motorcycle with his girlfriend, Taylor Koulouris, on the back. Ben’s motorcycle crashed into a car that was crossing the intersection along Lois Avenue.
Ben and Taylor both died from their injuries sustained in the crash.
Ben’s friends have set up a memorial at the intersection. Many visit it every week and are upset to see now safety change has been initiated.
"I would say just fight as hard as they can for the stoplight or anything they can get to make it safer here," said Taylor Sass, a friend of Ben.
The tragic loss of both teenagers has sparked a larger conversation about safety at the intersection.
"We would have cars trying to cut across a group of 50 kids crossing on Bay to Bay," said Arianne Corbett, the president of the Mabry Teachers Association.
Officials with Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa attended a meeting Wednesday night with the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association at the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library. Over a dozen community members attended the meeting in person and even more watched on Zoom.
The meeting was to talk about additional improvements that can be made at intersections throughout South Tampa.
"Throughout the city there a way too many accidents with pedestrians and cars. Throughout the city, we need to work on better funding for the roads, we need to work on better design for the sidewalks and we need to work on better education too," explained Bill Carlson, the Tampa councilman for District 4.
The main focus was Bay to Bay Boulevard and Lois Avenue. At this intersection, city officials reported there have been 26 crashes in the last five years. Along Bay to Bay Boulevard and S. Church Avenue city and county officials are seeing a similar trend. At that intersection, there have been 36 crashes in the last five years, which is more than the Lois Ave. intersection.
Officials reviewed both short-term and long-term safety aspects. In the short term, they are studying the addition of signs, road markings and paving roads.
Officials said a flashing crossing beacon will be installed in the intersection at Lois Ave. and Bay to Bay Blvd. No date was mentioned as to when that will happen due to supply chain shortages.
"The county has said they’re going to put out flashing beacons quickly. There is some supply chain issues they’re dealing with, but as soon as they can they’re going to put them out," Carlson added.
The long-term solutions consist of considering a traffic light and crosswalk beacons. To consider this, studies need to be done.
"They’ve got a look at all the data and determine if that’s the exact right solution," Carlson stated.
Corbett spoke during the meeting addressing concerns about how many kids walk to school in the area of Bay to Bay Boulevard and Lois Avenue. She said, on an average day, there are about 100 people who walk to school in that area. She is very pleased to hear there will be a flashing beacon put in the intersection.
"It does seem like the city and county are working together to at least begin the study," Corbett added.
Others who live in the area said the city and county officials need to consider a no-left turn sign.
A few parents spoke during the meeting explaining close calls they have had crossing the intersection with their children. There is also a park on the corner of Lois Ave. and Bay to Bay Blvd. Parents said that should be a reason why safety measures should be taken immediately.
City and county leaders expressed they have several projects that need to be done, but they don’t have the funding to do it. One solution proposed was passing the one percent sales tax to allow more transportation projects to see funding.
Officials stated Tampa is one of the most dangerous cities in the nation when it comes to pedestrian and bike safety. Officials understand change is needed, but funding is needed as well. Tampa city officials said they are currently doing mobility projects to improve safety.
"Long-term they’re doing a comprehensive study of the area looking at all the traffic flows and studying the accidents that have happened to get long-term solutions," Carlson added.
Officials said if you have any concerns about an intersection that needs safety measures added, to reach out.