NORTH TAMPA - With Hillsborough County among the nation's deadliest places for pedestrians and bicyclists, a meeting is scheduled Wednesday night for a public discussion of safety improvements proposed for a 3.1-mile stretch of Fletcher Avenue.
The estimated $4.4 million project targets Fletcher Avenue from Nebraska Avenue to 50th Street. The roadway has one of the highest pedestrian accident rates in unincorporated Hillsborough.
More than 1,400 pedestrians cross the stretch of Fletcher daily. Between 2006 and 2010 there were 63 pedestrian accidents there, resulting in three deaths and 22 incapacitating injuries, Hillsborough sherifff's records show.
Proposed improvements to Fletcher include pedestrian "refuge" islands, mid-block pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes. A sidewalk is proposed for the south side of Fletcher, adjacent to the University of South Florida campus, from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard to 50th Street. The targeted stretch of Fletcher also will be repaved.
In 2011, the public-interest coalition Transportation for America examined a decade of traffic data and ranked Tampa the nation's second-most deadly for pedestrians and bicyclists. Orlando was first.
The segment of Fletcher was among the 10 most dangerous stretches of road in Hillsborough, engineers concluded. It will be the first to receive recommended improvements.
Responding to the Transportation for American report, Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin Beckner asked the county's transportation planning agency to study bike and pedestrian safety in unincorporated areas.
A consulting engineer, URS, complied five years of crash data on major thoroughfares in six study areas: Carrollwood, USF, Town 'N Country/Egypt Lake, Citrus Park, Brandon and Palm River.
The 390 crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists in those study areas between 2005 and 2011 resulted in 23 fatalities and 268 injuries.
URS conducted field interviews during daylight and nighttime hours, counting pedestrians and watching their road-crossing habits, while also documenting conditions that made the roads and intersections dangerous. The firm observed that on some of the most dangerous highways, pedestrians were darting in and out of traffic, ignoring traffic signals and designated crosswalks.
Last year the county commission budgeted $8.5 million to design and build safety features to address the safety problems in the 10 study areas.
Federal safety grants administered locally through the Florida Department of Transportation will pay $2.5 million of the anticipated cost of the Fletcher improvements.
Construction is expected to begin in August and be completed within a year, according to the county public works department.
At the 6:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting, county staff will discuss the Fletcher project and answer residents' questions. The meeting is at the University Area Community Development Center, 14013 N. 22 St.
For information, visit the Fletcher Avenue Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety project page on the Hillsborough County website or call Steve Valdez, citizen services manager, at (813) 272-5275.
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